Home Energy conservation It’s time for Canada’s beluga whale migration and you can watch it live

It’s time for Canada’s beluga whale migration and you can watch it live


Up to 55,000 belugas migrate to warmer waters, as they do every year, and you can watch them live.

The live stream is produced through a partnership between Arctic conservation group Polar Bears International and nature live streaming network explore.org. It is broadcast from the Polar Bears International research vessel, Delphi, in the Churchill River estuary, where the river empties into Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada. The goal of the Beluga Whale Live Cam livestream is to educate people about sea ice so they better understand its importance to the Arctic ecosystem.

Sea ice “is to the ocean what soil is to forest,” said Alysa McCall, director of conservation outreach and scientist at Polar Bears International, according to Live Science.

“Sea ice is critical habitat for arctic species,” McCall continued. “Walruses and seals use sea ice for refuge, seals give birth on sea ice, and beluga whales use sea ice for protection from killer whales. All arctic species in the ocean are supported by arctic sea ice, because in arctic sea ice grow algae that resemble northern plants.

Although the amount of Arctic sea ice is rapidly shrinking due to global warming, there’s also good news: Sea ice can potentially recover quickly if the climate cools, McCall said.

“When we get our carbon emissions down to a more sustainable level and start to shift more widely to greener energy, we know the sea ice will rebound,” McCall said. “The actions you are taking now to reduce carbon emissions and switch to solar power, wind power and incentivize these big companies to be more sustainable are absolutely having a positive impact on sea ice, which has a positive impact on all the animals that depend on it.”

The live broadcast began on July 15, Arctic Sea Ice Day.

The “canary of the sea”

“Beluga whales, or Delphinapterus leucas, are known for their white color and range of vocal sounds, earning them the title “canary of the sea,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Fisheries Administration (NOAA). “They are very social animals, forming groups to hunt, migrate and interact with each other.”

Considering that whales live in arctic and subarctic waters, it’s no surprise that they have a thick layer of blubber and thick skin to help them live in freezing waters.

Another interesting feature is that instead of a dorsal fin, belugas have a dorsal ridge, which allows them to swim easily under floating ice patches. Indeed, the genus name Delphinaptera translates to “finless dolphin”.

On average, belugas weigh around 3,100 pounds and reach lengths of up to 16 feet. They have a lifespan of about 90 years.

Their diet includes octopus, squid, crabs, shrimp, clams, snails, and sandworms. They also eat a variety of fish, including salmon, eulachon, cod, herring, smelt, and flatfish.

All beluga populations are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). It’s important to note that NOAA Fisheries has designated some beluga populations in Alaska and Russia as “depleted,” meaning their numbers have fallen below what’s considered optimal sustainable population levels.

The beluga livestream

The so-called “beluga cams” ​​livestream begins each year as a pod of around 55,000 beluga whales migrate to the shallow waters of Hudson Bay.

In winter, the bay is locked in ice, said Stephen Petersen, director of conservation and research at Canada’s Assiniboine Park Conservancy, according to Live Science. However, belugas visit the region in the summer when the water is warmer.

Whales may find the bay’s sheltered waters provide protection from killer whales, Petersen told Live Science. In addition, estuaries provide belugas with a large amount of food.

Additionally, scientists also believe the whales return to the warm, low-salt waters of the Churchill River estuary to give birth. That’s because these warmer waters are ideal for newborn calves that don’t have a thick layer of fat to protect them from cold water.

There are two cameras aboard Polar Bears International Beluga Beluga boat – short for Delphinaptera, of course – to offer different views of the whales. The first camera is on the deck of the ship while the second is below the surface of the water. This camera even captures the cries of whales.

You can watch live streams here.

How you can help with research

While some beluga populations are small, the population that migrates into Hudson Bay each year is healthy. One of the goals of the live beluga cam broadcast is to work to maintain the health of this population, Petersen says.

“We want to increase surveillance so that if threats emerge or if this population changes, we can see it before we get to a critical point,” Petersen continues.

To this end, Petersen leads the citizen science project Beluga Bits.

Here’s how it works: Each year, beluga cam viewers can collect screenshots of the whales they see on Delphi’s live streams in July and August. Then, throughout the year, they can help identify individual whales in zooniverse.org images.

This work is helping scientists learn more about belugas, including whether or not the whales return to the same place each year.

You can read more about Beluga Bits here and zooniverse.org here.

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