Beluga Whale

(also known as the White Whale)

Inuktitut name - Qilalugat

Colour - white; young are dark; in some areas, older whales are yellow just before moult, then white

Length - 3 to 5 metres

Shape - forehead rises into a hump on top of head; dorsal fin absent; head can turn to the side (unlike other whales)

Behaviour - usually swim in pods; migrates along leads, often congregating in hundreds where fast ice blocks migration routes; often in shallow water; absence of dorsal fin allows it to break through thin ice for breathing areas without damaging its back; diet consists of fish (mainly the Arctic Cod and Arctic Char), squid, octopus, and various crustaceans

Distribution - pods spend their summers mainly in river estuaries; there are several distinct subpopulations of these whales [1) some migrate to Greenland in fall, returning to waters west of Baffin Bay in spring (10,000 go through Lancaster Sound), 2) some migrate to eastern Hudson Strait and Labrador, returning to Hudson and Ungava Bays, or Cumberland Sound, 3) some migrate to Bering Sea, returning to Beaufort Sea (first to Banks Island and Amundsen Gulf, then to the Mackenzie River delta), 4) the largest group is in the western Hudson Bay, where some over-winter in James Bay and northern Hudson Bay]; in fall, large herds can be seen feeding on Arctic cod along the shorelines of Cornwallis Island and Devon Island; in late fall, herds can be seen travelling along the coast of Lancaster Sound

Sensitivity - a wide variety of responses to ship traffic have been shown by various populations of belugas; it is felt that sensitivity in open water would be low, however concentrations of whales along ice edges would have a high sensitivity and a high likelihood of encountering ships; belugas' sensitivity to aircraft is considered to be high in estuaries, intermediate at ice edges, and low in open water

Note - The Beluga Whale is a primary species of interest for Inuit and Inuvialuit hunters.

Beluga Whale (38 KB) Lancaster Sound Area
Distribution Maps:
Fall Scenario
Spring (Ice Scenario 1)
Spring (Ice Scenario 2)
Spring (Ice Scenario 3)
Summer Scenario
Coronation Gulf Area
Distribution Maps:
This species is not sensitive in this area, therefore no maps are presented.

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