Fun fact: Belugas are the only whales with flexible necks.
The government of Manitoba released today its first provincial plan to protect beluga habitat in Western Hudson Bay. This population's status is currently listed as being of special concern and today we issued this statement of support. Belugas are a priority species for WWF-Canada.
The beluga is primarily known as an Arctic species, where it spends most of its time among the sea ice. As with many Arctic sea ice dependent species, beluga whales are affected by the loss of sea ice caused by climate change. They are being forced to adapt to the changing ecological system.
The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale population is listed as threatened and protected under the Species at Risk Act, and has been officially protected by the Canadian Fisheries Act since 1979. We naturally run into concern when those trusted to protect these species are scrubbing their content to make it more friendly for oil interests who are rummaging around for an alternate route to the ocean.
Just what is Vancouver Aquarium's relationship to SeaWorld's beluga program? Funny you should ask. It turns out that Vancouver Aquarium owns nine belugas, but only two actually live here. Seven others either live or were born at SeaWorld, a self-described theme park and entertainment corporation.
Although the conservation challenge is daunting, nurturing functioning ecosystems offers hope. Healthy oceans ensure we can continue to enjoy seafood -- and they're more resilient to increasing human impacts. If the global fishing industry wants to ensure its survival, it should advocate for marine ecosystem conservation.