By adopting a beluga, you will be helping us to better understand and share the fabulous story of the St. Lawrence beluga.
STILL POORLY UNDERSTOOD
With life expectancies comparable to our own, belugas live in communities and form complex social networks. Their vocal repertoire is one of the most highly evolved on the planet. And yet we are only beginning to understand these fascinating creatures.
After a gestation period of 14 months, females give birth to a calf, which they nurse until it reaches the age of 2. A tight bond which is critical to learning life’s most important lessons!
In summer, bulls and cows live separately. They develop long-lasting associations.
Nicknamed "canaries of the sea", belugas use a vast repertoire of sounds to navigate, find food and communicate.
St. Lawrence belugas at risk
A small population of belugas has lived in the St. Lawrence since the last glacial period. Isolated from the neighbouring populations of the Far North, the belugas of the St. Lawrence survived hunting in the last century. Made vulnerable by sustained exposure to toxic chemicals in its habitat over the past several decades, the population remained stable at around one thousand individuals until the early 2000s. Today, however, belugas face disturbances triggered by climate change. The population is falling once again and the rise in perinatal mortalities might be accelerating this decline, which began at the turn of the century. The survival of the St. Lawrence beluga is linked to that of many other species, including our own, with which it shares a rich and fragile ecosystem.
Belugas favour certain sectors that seem to play an important role for them. Identifying and protecting these habitats is critical for the safeguard of the population.
Heavily contaminated, belugas exhibited record high rates of cancer in the 1980s and 90s. Some of these contaminants are now diminishing and the prevalence of cancers is decreasing. Unfortunately, new contaminants are now posing a threat to mothers and their young.
Like a canary in a coal mine
Since the early 1980s, research has sounded the alarm regarding belugas. This call to action has resulted in a vast citizen and political mobilization for the protection of the St. Lawrence. This mobilization has paved the way for concrete actions such as the creation of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, large-scale decontamination, stricter policies and regulations, etc.
Knowledge for the sake of conservation
The results of our research programs have also made it possible to define concrete solutions to be implemented. The current boundaries of the Marine Park, the identification of critical habitat and the definition of voluntary measures proposed to the maritime industry to reduce its impact on whales are just a few examples of the application of our work to the conservation of the St. Lawrence beluga.
New solutions needed
Despite all the efforts made and the gains achieved for the health of the St. Lawrence, we are finding that the population, which we had believed to be stable, is once again declining. The recent increase in mortality of newborn belugas is still largely unexplained. More than ever, we must pursue this long-term research program, sustain our conservation efforts and find new solutions.