Increasing Our Understanding of Belugas

Cetaceans include several charismatic species about which we still need to learn many things. Belugas’ Canadian populations are almost all found in the Arctic (except for the endangered ones of the Saint Lawrence Seaway). They are truly considered as sentinels for the health of the ecosystems they are part of and upon which many other communities depend on as well. It is within this context that our veterinarian Doctor Émilie L. Couture is collaborating with the monitoring of beluga populations of the Beaufort Sea, with the support of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC).

Transmitters, Rich Sources of Information

In 2018, in the Mackenzie River delta (Northwest Territory), scientists together with members of the Inuvialuit community have been working very hard to place satellite transmitters on belugas of the Beaufort Sea. The first year of this two-year project, 14 belugas were equipped with transmitters allowing scientists to gather a myriad of information such localization and oceanographic data. Doctor Couture’s task was to supervise the “animal health” portion of the project, including examining whales and measuring the physiological impact placing transmitters had on them.

Data Analysis for Sustainable Solutions

The telemetry data obtained will offer a better understanding of how these marine mammals navigate within their ecosystem. Notably, in 2019, it will be possible to plan and conduct a census of the population from an airplane. Furthermore, this project ensures a constant monitoring of this arctic ecosystem’s health and will support the implementation of protective measures in the context of climate change and intensifying human activities such as transportation and other developments.