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 Males are displaying their tusks

The Narwhal Expedition is a new research initiative on narwhals involving several Canadian universities and organizations. The long-term objective of the project is to fill some of the knowledge gaps associated with this understudied whale species. More precisely, we want to assess the size and structure of the narwhal populations of northern Canada. We intend to develop and adapt research techniques for narwhal studies. Involving the local communitee is also one of our main goal, we want to make sure that they agree with our project and we want to share with them all of our results.

Field Site

The narwhals undertake a spring migration every year. During that time, they tend to gather inside the deep fjord around Baffin and the surrounding islands. We will take advantage of this behaviour to conduct our observational study from the coast and in the fjords of Nunavut.


The technique of photo-identification is currently used for the designation of individuals of several species from the giraffes to the elephants. This technique was proven for almost all the whale and dolphin species but is not currently applied for the narwhal. This technique use the occurrence of natural marks on animals to identify individuals.
For our project, we will take photograph of the head and the back of the narwhals. We will mainly be looking for ices scars, bullet scars and skin pigmentation. We will create a catalogue with all the photographs taken. Then, we will be able to match the picture taken with the ones from the catalogue and determine re-sighting of individuals. We can also study the interactions and association between the narwhals.

Acoustic Recordings

We record the underwater sounds of the narwhals using a hydrophone (underwater hydrophone) anchored on the bottom. We also observe the behaviour of the narwhal during the period of the recordings. The data obtained on their acoustic behaviour will be used to determine the function of their vocalizations and to develop an acoustic census technique.

Painting from Nathalie Parenteau
Painting from Nathalie Parenteau

Traditional Knowledge

The narwhal is an important part of the Inuit’s culture. They have been observing their behaviour and followed the populations for thousands of years. Although gatering traditional knowledge is not in our current goals, we want to make sure that the community support our project and we will create opportunities for them to share the concerns they might have in regards to our project.

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This page was designed by Marianne Marcoux and Marie Auger-Méthé
Created: April 2005
Last Updated: April 22, 2005