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February 1, 2011

Canaries of the Sea: Beluga Whales

Protect the ocean and you protect yourself. ~Jean-Michel Cousteau

Beluga whales are sometimes called canaries of the sea because they seem to sing…

There are places on this planet where it’s a marvel that anything survives. But in the cold Arctic waters of the far north, the sea is alive with sound. The canaries of the sea are singing. They’re beluga whales, named from the Russian word for “white ones.” They’re an evolutionary surprise—a warm-blooded mammal in a numbingly cold sea. Resembling curious ghosts, these intelligent mammals use one of the most complex sonars of any animal.

Belugas inhabiting Cook Inlet, close to Anchorage, were added to the list of endangered species in October 2008. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that a decade-long recovery program had failed to ensure the whales’ survival. The relationship between people and belugas is ancient. For more than 4,000 years, hunters of the north have depended on these whales for their own survival in a land with little to offer. These traditional cultures have now partnered with scientists and modern technology to protect the beluga, which in turn, ensures their own future.  Read the rest of this article on the I Count for myEARTH blog.

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