Protecting Canada’s endangered whales through scientific research and collaboration:  Whale Science for Tomorrow

Backgrounder

March 2019

The Government of Canada is committed to taking action to protect endangered marine mammals, including three priority species: the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic Right Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga. In the Whale Science for Tomorrow initiative, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada are partnering to provide $2.9 million in funding to Canadian universities for scientific research on these whale populations, strengthening knowledge to support decision-making, conservation and recovery efforts. This initiative will draw on the knowledge and experience of marine mammal experts and support three major research projects at Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia and the Université du Québec à Montréal. This investment will support approximately 24 jobs in the next two to four years.

Testing whether the availability of Chinook Salmon is sufficient to support a healthy Southern Resident Killer Whale population
University of British Columbia – $1 million over five years
The poor body condition of Southern Resident Killer Whales in recent years points to an insufficiency of Chinook Salmon, the whales’ preferred prey. Researchers will employ a variety of methods, including the tracking of both predator and prey, to determine if this population is able to meet its nutritional needs. This work will have implications for fisheries management and whale conservation, while broadening the base for recovery research and fostering the development of young scientists. 

Saving whales with innovative monitoring and mitigation
Dalhousie University – $1 million over four years
Knowledge of the presence and distribution of North Atlantic Right Whales in Canada is key to the conservation and recovery of these marine mammals. Researchers will advance North Atlantic Right Whale assessment and monitoring technology to quantify risks and develop solutions to protect these whales in a changing ocean environment. This multidisciplinary research initiative will involve the collaboration of organizations in Canada and worldwide. 

Occurrence and health impacts of environmental contaminants on the endangered St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga
Université du Québec à Montréal – $905,000 over five years
The endangered St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga inhabits a marine ecosystem greatly impacted by human activities. Its population of about 900 has not shown any signs of recovery in recent years. Researchers will use a range of innovative techniques to advance their knowledge of the whale’s exposure to environmental contaminants and their impacts on this beluga population.



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