Monitoring of Solovetsky white whale gathering place in the White Sea completed

Monitoring of Solovetsky white whale gathering place in the White Sea completed

8 October 2013

The field work of the White Whale 2013 project, carried out by the Marine Mammal Council (MMC), a partner of the Russian Geographical Society, has been completed. The MMC experts and specialists from the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) took part in monitoring the population and age composition of white whales gathering near the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea.


The expedition was held from 26 June to 15 August 2013 at the Beluzhy Cape of Solovetsky Island, where white whales gather for reproduction, and included work on animal observation during which over 20,000 photos of whales were taken. Some of the photos have already been analysed. Specialists identified 56 white whales with individual skin lesions. Thirteen of them have already been spotted in the previous years. Then types of the white whales' lesions will be determined based on the analysis of the photos.


Skin samples have been taken from four whales for laboratory genetic studies. Zoologists managed to do this in the open sea from boats, at a maximum distance from the animal's mating waters.


Remotely piloted aircrafts (RPA) were used again to capture white whales on video and take photos. Scientists used five special apparatuses: four aircraft-type apparatus and one multi-rotor helicopter. For the first time, scientists managed to conduct a five-day local aerial survey of white whales in the Solovetsky whale gathering place. Techniques of RPA control were tested as well as the potential of different types of photo and video devices out in the sea.


Participants in the expedition monitored the number of tourists who visited the waters of Beluzhy Cape and the coastal areas. This year the number was 973 people, while last year, 1,009. Tourists came by boats, by cross-country vehicles across littoral areas and by foot on an eco-trail. Several diving attempts were interrupted, and tourist boats were prohibited from entering the whale gathering place. Scientists took notes on anthropogenic violations and submitted them to the Solovetsky village's administration.

Photo: Vera Krasnova, Marine Mammal Council