More cameras observe more aggregation in White Sea beluga whales

Researchers observe belugas from an observation point on the shore.

This update on IFAW funded beluga whale research, part of a larger multiyear survey of the Solovetsky beluga whale aggregation near Cape Beluzhi in Russia, was filed on behalf of the team by IFAW Russia staff member Mila Danilova. --MV

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Cameras are recording belugas in the White Sea from a variety of perspectives.

One camera, mounted on a special kite, and another, fixed on a remotely piloted vehicle, are hovering above the pods, providing stunning photographs for aerial surveys.

One more—purchased with funds provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2013—is automatically capturing two shots every 15 minutes from the observation point on the shore, which has been used for surveys for years.

With improved technology, researchers have gathered impressive data demonstrating:

  • beluga age
  • sex distribution
  • numbers and
  • structure

of the beluga  populations in these remote offshore locations—and we are only halfway through the summer study period of the White Sea Beluga Whale Project, which is part of a larger multiyear survey of the Solovetsky beluga whale aggregation near Cape Beluzhi in Russia.

According to the preliminary data, the highest number of beluga whales in an aggregation was recorded on July 5 (approximately 80 individual animals), 13 more than the highest aggregation last year.

Some additional items of interest:

  • An increase of white individuals within the surveyed water area was recorded during mating season
  • Usually, males arrived in groups of seven
  • One of the males was identified as one that had visited last year

The Solovetsky aggregation of belugas near Cape Beluzhi in Russia are photographed by a camera flown on a kite.

Good news in the recording of the first newly born animal, registered on July 15. At this point, there are now five reported calves. 

Two bioassay samples were taken from members of the Solovetsky aggregation. Presumably, one of the animals was female; the second one, juvenile. The genetic data bank currently contains 17 samples. 

Mobile recording of acoustic sounds with a fixed hydrophone continue as well, helping us understand the meaning of belugas' sound signals.

In addition to scientific research, project participants ensure protection of the Solovetsky aggregation, whose habitat is visited by tourists, numbering from five to 40 daily.

We make sure that tourist boats station themselves at a safe distance from the animals.

--MD

For more information about IFAW efforts to protect whales around the world, visit our campaign page. 

Photographs by Ivan Podgorny and Bettina van Elk

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales