Canadian government invests in whale research | Polarjournal
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) belongs to the family Balaenidae, grows up to 18 meters long and lives exclusively in Arctic waters. It can reach an age of over 200 years. The bowhead whale has a layer of fat up to 70 cm thick, which protects it from the icy cold. The head is very large in relation to the body, taking up almost a third of the total length, allowing it to break through layers of ice up to 30 cm thick. (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

The Government of Canada announced in a release on its website that it will increase investment in research for narwhals, bowhead whales and beluga whales. They play an important role in the Arctic Ocean ecosystem and contribute to the livelihood and culture of indigenous people and coastal communities.

The aim is to study the effects of environmental changes and their impact on cetacean populations. This will help to understand what steps need to be taken to ensure that these species continue to swim in the waters for future generations of Canadians.

The white whale (Delphinapterus leucas) or beluga is a species of the family Monodontidae that lives in Arctic and subarctic waters. Like the closely related narwhals, they do not have a dorsal fin; their bluish-white to creamy-white coloration is distinctive. White whales are between three and six meters long, weighing 400 to 1000 kilograms. Males are usually larger and heavier than females. (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced on August 12 that the University of Manitoba will receive $228,736 from the Sustainable Fisheries Science Fund. The disbursements will be spread over 3 years. The project will analyze the DNA of narwhals, bowhead whales, and belugas to determine how these populations are structured and to further assess how their population sizes may be affected by climate change, harvest levels, and human-induced changes to their environment over time.

This unique project will provide new data on the genetic structure, health, and populations of these three cetacean species from before European settlement in the Arctic to the present day. This information will improve our understanding of how cetacean populations in the Arctic can be affected by environmental change, and will inform decisions about how best to manage the species so that indigenous and coastal communities can maintain their way of life and the species can continue to thrive for many years to come.

Bernadette Jordan joined the Government of Canada in 2019 as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. (Photo: Ed Halverson)

Secretary Bernadette Jordan commented, “The health and sustainability of our aquatic species depends on our research. An investment in science to better understand the ecosystem and inform species management decisions is an investment in a stronger blue economy. Research is critical for a better understanding of how to sustainably manage these aquatic species and populations. This project will contribute towards protecting these aquatic species and maintaining the livelihoods provided by our aquatic ecosystems.”

“The narwhal, bowhead whale and beluga are iconic to the Canadian Arctic. Indigenous and Northern communities rely on them for their food and livelihood. The research being done by the University of Manitoba will contribute greatly to our understanding of how environmental changes are affecting whale populations, and what can be done to make sure the species and the communities continue to flourish”, Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs stated.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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