The IEE Expedition Announces Its Results

The IEE Expedition Announces Its Results

23 December 2010

In October 2010, a regular expedition was sent by the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences to the White Sea as part of its Beluga White Whale Programme. The team of researchers travelled to the estuary of the Varzuga River in the south of the Kola Peninsula to attach satellite-tracking tags to beluga whales ranging in the White Sea.


All in all, the researchers have tagged five male beluga whales of various ages, attaching Pulsar transmitters that can be tracked by the Argos satellite system. The transmitters have been working smoothly for two months now, sending signals and enabling zoologists to track the migration of the whales in real time.


The storm season, which normally begins in autumn, forced researchers to work in adverse conditions. The strong currents typical of the White Sea are caused by high and low tides, during which it is difficult to ship out. Moreover, beluga whales are very sensitive to the noise produced by motorboats and instantly respond by retreating to the high seas. Difficulties notwithstanding, however, the zoologists managed to take skin samples from two different groups of beluga whales using a special crossbow. These samples will be examined at the Institute’s laboratory using the molecular and genetic method.


At present, zoologists are tracking the migrations of 12 beluga whales. Eight specimens were tagged in the Sea of Okhotsk, including two whales that were tagged not far from Kamchatka’s western coast, near the village of Ust-Khairyuzovo. In 2011, research under the Beluga White Whale Programme is planned to continue in various areas of the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as Kamchatka’s western coast, the Sakhalin Gulf and the Shantar Sea.