Featured Image Credit: Andrey Nekasov
In the Beaufort Delta region of the Northwest Territories, experts are coming up with a plan to track the beluga whale. By tagging the whales they hope to gain insight on the whales’ diets and where they travel and when. The project is set to start in summer 2018 and will last a minimum of two years.
The process for this project started late last year when members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, and the Inuvialuit Game Council started consultations with the entire Inuvialuit Settlement Region about the project. This marks the first time so many consultations about the beluga whale have been held.
Researchers hope to learn more about where the whales travel and to find out the impact of shipping on the belugas. If they know where they are traveling then they can create corridors to be avoided as well as establishing speed limits. Officials say one of the biggest concerns is how shipping effects the beluga whale.
Another reason for the tagging program is to understand more about the whales’ diet. In 2014, harvested belugas had a changed fatty acid composition, which means their food sources changed. That year they had a very diverse diet. Usually, a beluga whale has a diet mainly composed of arctic cod.
With information from tagged whales, experts can also start planning an aerial survey to estimate population numbers. The last aerial survey on record was done in 1992, so it’s time for an updated estimate on beluga whale numbers.