Long-Finned Pilot Whale (North Atlantic)


  • Long-Finned Pilot Whale (North Atlantic)
  • Long-Finned Pilot Whale (North Atlantic)

The long-finned pilot whale is a summer resident in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, especially off the Gaspé Peninsula and the East Coast of Newfoundland.

Visits by this species into the Estuary are quite rare.

The pilot whale (North Atlanctic subspecies) is present in temperate waters and subarctic waters of the North Atlantic and in the western part of the Mediterranean.

The long-finned pilot whale does not appear on the List of threatened or vulnerable species in Quebec.

This species is listed as “not at risk” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

This species is designated “data deficient” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s” (IUCN) List .

The long-finned pilot whale feeds essentially on squid and mackerel that it finds in the water column.

It will occasionally eat shrimp and other fish species (cod, plaice).

It sometimes teams up with other species such as the Atlantic white-sided dolphin to hunt.

Illustrated species: (from high to low, from left to right): mackerel, squid, cod.

The long-finned pilot whale is highly gregarious.

They gather in stable family units of 10 to 20 members.

These large pods are characterized by a very high level of social cohesion.

This pilot whale species may also associate with groups of dolphins as well as with larger cetaceans.

The pilot whale has a highly varied and complex vocal repertoire, which consists of whistles, clicks, pulsing sounds, grunts, screams and buzzing noises.

These sounds are used for communication between individuals and echolocation.

Their swimming is characterized by successive leaps and bounds.

Long-finned pilot whales are relatively fast swimmers and can reach speeds of 35 km/h when being chased by a predator.

They are capable of jumping out of the water, but rarely do.

They often engage in spyhopping.

When resting, they typically remain motionless at the surface.

Dives last 5 to 10 minutes on average, most often to depths in the range of 30 to 500 m, where the species’ prey is found.

They can reach 1000 m and last as long as 15 minutes, however.

At Nova Scotia*’s Dalhousie University, *the team of Hal Whitehead has been leading research projects on the long-finned pilot whale off the coast of Cape Breton since 1998. He manages a catalogue of over 1500 individuals identified by photo-identification based on notches and marks on their dorsal fin. Analysis of acoustic recordings currently being conducted would shed light on whether or not dialects exist within the family units of this species, as they do in killer whales.