An estimated 10,000 belugas used to make the St. Lawrence River home. Now there are only 900.

An estimated 10,000 belugas used to make the St. Lawrence River home. Now there are only 900.
Photo Credit: GREMM

Tagging endangered belugas to find winter habitat

A non-profit group is tagging beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River to try to find out where they spend the winter and further the goal of preventing their decline. Two of the small white whales have been tagged so far and the group hopes to tag four more before winter weather forces them to take their eight-meter-long boat out of the water.

Tagging a beluga is tricky, but once attached, will transmit the beluga’s position to a satellite.
Tagging a beluga is tricky, but once attached, will transmit the beluga’s position to a satellite. © GREMM

Tags transmit to satellites

The tall tags are shot at the whale’s backs and they attach with two tiny harpoons. They transmit to satellites and will enable researchers to plan flights to try to survey their movements. The tags are eventually shed by the belugas leaving a small wound. Researchers say it is a trade-off—creating an irritation in order to gather information to try to protect the whale and its habitat.

Only 900 left

An estimated 10,000 belugas swam in the St. Lawrence before 1885. Commercial whaling reduced the population to around 1,000 by the late 1970s. Toxic pollution caused cancer in many of the animals and while the river is cleaner now, their numbers are not increasing. Now there are only about 900.

Two belugas have been tagged and the crew is hoping to tag four more before winter weather forces them to pull their boat out of the water.
Two belugas have been tagged and the crew is hoping to tag four more before winter weather forces them to pull their boat out of the water. © GREMM

Belugas not improving

“The St. Lawrence is a better place to live in than it used to be and we thought the beluga would do much better and would recover since those improvements,” says Robert Michaud, scientific director for the group called Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM). “Sadly, they don’t.”

Listen

While contaminants in the belugas’ bodies have declined, the whales are not doing much better, he says. “Following this exposure to contaminants, now they are fighting against climate change.”

Although the river’s water is now cleaner, climate change may be creating difficult conditions for the belugas.
Although the river’s water is now cleaner, climate change may be creating difficult conditions for the belugas. © GREMM

‘Climate change…might be a road to decline and extinction’

The belugas are an arctic animal and those living in this river are at the southernmost part of their range. As water temperatures increase, conditions decline and the animals are not likely to leave the habitat they are used to and simply move north, says Michaud.

“What we’re afraid of is that if the conditions get worse and worse, they might try to adapt to these conditions but do poorly. And this might be a road to decline and extinction.” Michaud hopes that studying the belugas’ winter habitat and behaviours will help find ways to stop their decline.
column-banner-lynn

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Animals, Environment, Science and Technology, Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*