This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Drones used to monitor N.W.T. belugas

  • Nov 17, 2015
  • 242 words
  • 1 minutes
Beluga whales in Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. (Photo: Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons)
Beluga whales in Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. (Photo: Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons)
Expand Image

Researchers have employed a never-before-used combination of techniques to monitor beluga whales, according to an organization that funds research on the cetacean in the Northwest Territories.

“We realized that if you pair hydrophones with local observation and drones, you might together be able to come up with an innovative picture of what’s going on,” Louie Porta of Oceans North Canada, told the CBC of the work that took place last summer in Darnley Bay, part of which could become the proposed Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area.

All three methods allow scientists to avoid tagging the whales or using airplanes for surveys, techniques that local hunters consider disruptive. “Can you get abundance estimates without aerial survey and without tagging? That is what we are trying to do,” Porta told the CBC. Oceans North Canada promotes science and community-based conservation in Canada’s Arctic and is the beluga monitoring program’s main funder.

Last summer was the first time the researchers employed drones (the two previous summers had seen them use hydrophones and local observation only). One local hunter compared what he saw while operating the drone to watching a game on an iPad, the CBC reported.

The data the researchers gather will be used to manage the marine protected area, which will be officially designated this year, said the CBC report.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Polar Bears

This story is from the December 2015 Issue

Related Content

illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity


The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes
A grizzly bear lies dead on the side of the road


Animal crossing: Reconnecting North America’s most important wildlife corridor

This past summer an ambitious wildlife under/overpass system broke ground in B.C. on a deadly stretch of highway just west of the Alberta border. Here’s how it happened.

  • 3625 words
  • 15 minutes


Do not disturb: Practicing ethical wildlife photography

Wildlife photographers on the thrill of the chase  — and the importance of setting ethical guidelines 

  • 2849 words
  • 12 minutes


Beluga whistles and clicks could be silenced by an increasingly noisy Arctic Ocean

Sound is an integral part of a beluga’s life, so the quality of the underwater acoustic environment is very important for the health and survival of belugas

  • 940 words
  • 4 minutes