Annual study on beluga whales continues

IFAW-supported researchers will study their patterns and behavior from the 12-meter tower, constructed with IFAW support, near the water's edge.Next week, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will commence another summer of beluga whale research as part of our longstanding White Sea Beluga Whale Project, in collaboration with staff of the marine mammals laboratory of the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

As belugas congregate and begin to reproduce near Cape Beluzhy of the Solovetsky Island, IFAW-supported researchers will study their patterns and behavior from the 12-meter tower, constructed with IFAW support, near the water's edge.

READ: More cameras observe more aggregation in White Sea beluga whales

July is when the most animals ready to give birth arrive, when the peak of sightings of newly born calves takes place, and when it is possible to see how their mothers take care of them.

There is no better time for the expedition.

During the expedition, scientists have a number of goals:

  • The multi-year monitoring of population numbers and individual animals of the Solovetsky beluga whales through photo identification. This is particularly important now, due to the active development of environmental tourism near the Solovetsky Island, with more and more tourists arriving to see beluga whales, “the pearl of the White Sea.” In order to not disrupt the natural behavior of the animals, it is important to ensure silence. In their work the expedition participants use the most modern equipment allowing observation of behavioral changes in beluga whales near humans. A remotely piloted quadcopter and a heli-kite were purchased with IFAW support. This equipment allows monitoring and filming beluga whales without disturbing them.
  • Research of genetic structure of the Solovetsky congregation. The primary objective of this research is continuation of testing beluga whale tissues for persistent organic pollutants. In order to do so, small skin samples are collected using a crossbow, which will then be sent for laboratory analysis.
  • Recording acoustic activities of beluga whales. The scientists will try to determine ethological and acoustic correlations. In order to achieve this goal, an underwater acoustic radiator was purchased with IFAW support, and sound analyzers were restored to service after the previous summer research season. After a 5-year break there are plans to renew underwater filming of beluga whales using a submerged camera where the animals congregate most often. Unfortunately, success of these activities depends on the weather, which is completely unpredictable in the White Sea.

Let us wish the scientists luck and collection of abundant scientific materials!


Information provided by Very Krasnova and Anton Chernetsky, staff members of Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, long time partners of IFAW in White Sea beluga whales research and conservation.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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