Scientists in Russia have been tracking Beluga whales as they make their way to their only shore-side breeding ground. They observe the whales' health and longevity, and note the population.
The whales come to this White Sea sandbank, according to Terra Daily, to mate and play, where it's safe. But they migrate there from northern seas where they feed in the winter, and where other priorities have taken hold.
The article reports that as ice sheets melt in the Arctic, the Russian government is focusing on the development of oil and gas reserves in the region, including parts of the Barents Sea where many of the Belugas spend the winter.
The noise of the tankers is considered a major problem for the whales, who use sound to navigate, according to the article. But the bigger fear is a possible oil spill that would take years to clean up.
In the meantime, scientists have noted a small decrease in the whale population, which they attribute in part to human activity in Arctic regions. But Vsevolod Belkovich, a professor at the Russian Academy of Science, is quoted in the article as saying that threats to the whales will grow dramatically as global warming continues.
Belkovich added, "Belugas are a bellwether species what happens to them reflects the effects of pollution and global warming on the whole ecosystem."
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.