Georgia Aquarium remains steadfast in our commitment to provide all animals in our care a high quality of life, to educate the public and contribute to wildlife conservation.
Conservation is core to our mission and passion.
By conducting studies and working with beluga whales in aquariums we gain critical insights about their biology and physiology ranging from hearing threshold and echolocation to nutritional requirements and disease ecology. What we are learning in aquariums adds to a more comprehensive understanding of the species, when coupled with biological studies from animals in the ocean. This type of understanding is critical for conservation management. Issues that threaten wild populations can range from ocean noise from shipping, underwater blasting and resource exploitation to reduction in prey sources critical to meeting beluga whale nutritional requirements. To appropriately protect animals, we need to understand them.
Due to the remote locations and extreme climate inhabited by beluga whales, conservation research on beluga whales is conducted in aquarium environments.
There are some opportunities to study them in the wild, though, and Georgia Aquarium is the primary funder of a collaboration of independent scientists, government agencies and partners conducting field research with beluga whales in Alaska, where the population faces significant threats to their environment. Since 2007, we’ve participated in health assessments of the population in Bristol Bay, Alaska. We joined a sound monitoring study in Cook Inlet Alaska in 2017, which studies one of the most endangered populations of belugas in the world. Also in 2017, we started work on a beluga whale photogrammetry study in the St. Lawrence River. In 2018, the Georgia Aquarium team has been working with NOAA Fisheries and University of California Santa Cruz/Long Marine Lab on a beluga metabolic study that will provide valuable insight on beluga metabolism and energy use; utilizing and comparing populations in the wild and those in our accredited care.
As of 2019, we are continuing to pursue research opportunities that will expand our knowledge of beluga whales and grow our ability to conserve this species worldwide.
Through research of beluga whales in accredited aquariums coupled with studies in their natural environments when possible, we are able to develop effective conservation, research and education programs that are essential to the survival and sustainability of beluga whales everywhere. These studies not only enable us to advance the scientific knowledge of these incredible animals, but also to encourage conservation of beluga whales by educating and inspiring the public to not only care about these amazing marine mammals and the environments they need to survive, but also their role in helping protect that environment.