Save Beluga whales of the St. Lawrence Estuary
According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, there are currently 543 plant and animal species at risk in Canada
There are health threats to wildlife in Canada and worldwide, with spill over to people and domestic animals, but Canada has been ahead of the pack in planning, preparedness and active stewardship of wildlife health.
Work Done So Far
The CCWHC has been a key player in an effort to assess the health of the beluga whale population in the St Lawrence Estuary; a unique population long isolated from other beluga. This southern population – a sentinel for the health of the entire St. Lawrence ecosystem – is currently threatened and is not recovering.
With the help of the Réseau québécois d’urgences pour les mammifères marins, a group of dedicated volunteers concerned about the health of beluga whales and other marine mammals, our long-term collaborative assessments of the causes of illness and death in this population have identified cancer, parasitic infections, harmful algal blooms and boat strikes as significant health issues for these whales.
Some of these conditions may stem from exposure to pollution while others relate to incautious human activities. All of these conditions can perhaps be reduced if the underlying causes can be identified and mitigation plans put into effect.
There is still work to do
Although we have monitored causes of mortality in the St. Lawrence beluga for over two decades, this is still only a small period of time for such a long lived species.
It is essential to monitor the health of this population for many years to come, to understand current health issues as well as to assess the effectiveness of efforts made to improve the health of the beluga and their ecosystem.
The health of other marine mammals in the estuary should also be monitored. This will help us to gain a more complete understanding of the condition of these species, of diseases that can be transmitted from other species to the beluga, and the health of the estuary.
You can help to continue the success story
Canada has been remarkably successful in bringing together its wildlife and veterinary expertise and institutions to track and solve wildlife health issues, uniting wildlife conservation with the health sciences as never before.
We now need to expand our capacity to meet national needs and obligations for stewardship. We need better vigilance for wildlife health problems and better ways to measure wildlife health. We need stronger investigative teams with the resources to respond quickly. We need better communications to inform Canadians and recruit citizen scientists to participate.
Here are a few ways that you can help the beluga and the St. Lawrence estuary:
Monitoring the health of marine mammals is expensive and requires dedicated full-time personnel as well as many volunteers. Maintenance of the current level of monitoring will require $100,000 each year, while the full monitoring of marine mammal health in the estuary will require an additional $150,000 each year. Donations large and small can help us to reach these fund-raising goals.
Become a Citizen Scientist
Join the Réseau québécois d’urgences pour les mammifères marins and help find, and report to the program coordinators, stranded beluga and other marine mammals in the estuary.
Encourage others to donate and participate
- Engage your employees to become Citizen Scientists and donors, and match their donations
- Tell your friends, neighbours and associates about this program