Species at Risk
Beluga (St. Lawrence population)
Why protect the St .Lawrence Beluga?
All species, from the tiny phytoplankton to the enormous blue whale, are
linked. The disappearance of one of them will have an impact on all the others.
We should not forget that we humans are also part of this great chain and
that, as a result, the extinction of certain species will have long-term effects
not only on our environment, but also on our economy and our culture.
Belugas are easily recognizable by their white
© Parks Canada / Saguenay St. Lawrence
Marine Park Image Gallery / J.Audet / MB-2-21
Of all the populations of this species, the St. Lawrence beluga lives the
farthest south on the planet. Its presence contributes in a strong way to
the ecological diversity of the estuary. Also, since the arrival of the first
explorers, the beluga has been intimately associated with this section of
the river, where explorers came, among other things, to hunt them. Since the
1980s, the belugas have not been hunted, but their presence, as well as that
of some other species of sea mammals, has contributed to the attraction of
the region as a tourist destination of choice.
In the past, the St. Lawrence beluga’s situation has raised passions
and inspired numerous acts of conservation.
It has become a symbol of the fragility of nature and the importance of acting
to protect the environment. Let’s continue to act to offer the St. Lawrence
beluga a future worthy of what it represents.
What is Parks Canada doing to protect the St. Lawrence
At the beginning of the 1990s, several stakeholders met to create a recovery
plan for the St. Lawrence beluga. Since the publication of this plan in 1995,
several actions have been taken to aid the beluga population. The single most
important was the creation of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.
This Park, jointly managed by Parks Canada and Parcs Québec, enables
us to protect a part of the ecosystem in which the St. Lawrence beluga spends
its whole life.
The creation of the Marine observation activities regulations is also one
of the most important measures in place to encourage the recovery of the St.
Lawrence beluga population. These regulations, written in collaboration with
the people who conduct activities in the waters of the Marine Park, provide
guidelines about observing marine mammals. The main goal of such regulations
is to reduce the intrusion caused by human activities. Since the implementation
of these regulations in 2002, it has been prohibited to get closer than 400
metres to a beluga or blue whale, no matter what type of boat or the nautical
activity being practised.
Research and observation
Several research and follow-up projects have been done in the past and are
being done today. Parks Canada is participating in these projects, in collaboration
with other departments and non-governmental organizations involved in the
Marine Park area. Most research projects on the belugas focus on watching
the development of the size of the population, its composition, the use of
the habitat and the effects of human activities.
Raising public awareness
In the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, there are several opportunities
for visitors who would like to learn more about St. Lawrence belugas. Parks
Canada and its partners offer visitors interpretation centres, panels installed
on the piers and river trails, personalized interpretation and theatrical
presentations. Three sites for observing marine mammals from the shore are
also accessible. At the sites, in addition to being able to observe the natural
habits of these animals, visitors can also benefit from naturalists who can
answer all their questions.
Collaborating with partners
For the purposes of research, species recovery and interpretation, the Saguenay–St.
Lawrence Marin Park works in collaboration with various government and non-governmental
partners. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Parcs Québec,
the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the group for research and education on
marine mammals (GREMM), Explos-Nature, ZIP committees (ZIP is short for “zone
d'intervention prioritaire,” or area of prime concern), and several
others are among those involved in research about and interpretation of this
subject at the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.