The White One
In Russian, ‘Beluga’ means ‘the white one’ and adult beluga whales have a pure white skin. This small toothed whale lives in frigid Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. Some beluga whales migrate south to warmer water in the summer. They may be found in the salty water where a river meets the sea, or sometimes, a little way upstream. The beluga has a broad, rounded head and a large forehead. It also has broad, paddle-like flippers and notched tails. Beluga whales live in small social groups known as pods and communicate with each other using different sounds. Belugas, like other arctic whales, do not have dorsal fins. A dorsal fin causes extra heat loss and would be a major hindrance in the arctic ice. They have a thick layer of blubber that insulates them from the icy arctic waters.
Beluga whales can be up to 15 feet long which is as long as an average car. They can weigh as much as a small car or around 3000 pounds. Belugas forage for food on the seabed. This typically takes place at depths of up to 1,000 feet, but they can dive to at least twice this depth. They eat whatever fish species are most common including salmon, eulachon, tomcod, smelt, char, rainbow sole, whitefish, saffron and arctic cod, herring, shrimp, mussels and octopus.
The Beluga population is estimated at approximately 50,000-70,000 worldwide. Although the species as a whole is not in danger of extinction, some local populations are in danger. Pollution is the greatest threat to Beluga Whales. The pollution stems from toxic chemicals from industry, which accumulate in fish and then in Belugas when they eat contaminated fish. Other threats include shipping and ecotourism.