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Mystic Aquarium Announces Keynote for International Beluga Conference


Mystic, Conn. (February 22, 2019): Preparations are being finalized for the Second International Workshop on Beluga Research and Conservation to be hosted by Mystic Aquarium on March 12-14, 2019. The goal of the conference is to connect, collaborate and share traditional knowledge and exploration of advances in aquarium husbandry, field biology and the latest science impacting beluga whales.

“By sharing our expertise and establishing new collaborations, we hope to better inform conservation and management decisions of belugas in both aquarium and native settings,” said Dr. Tracy Romano, Mystic Aquarium’s Vice President of Research, Chief Scientist and one of the conference organizers.

It has been over a decade since the great minds in beluga conservation have met specifically to discuss how collaboration can positively impact education and conservation. The First International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research, Husbandry and Management was held in March 2007 by L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain.

The keynote presentations will focus not only on the current status of belugas in different regions of the Arctic but also the current research initiatives and subsequent research gaps. Further, presenters will highlight how collaboration with indigenous community members has been and continues to be essential to the advancement of knowledge and research.

Randall R. Reeves of the Okapi Wildlife Associates of Hudson, Quebec, Canada, will open the conference by discussing the findings presented to the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) on the conservation status of all beluga whales and narwhals throughout the Arctic. The remainder of the opening session will highlight, through a host of additional expert presentations, the current conservation concerns in each of the populations in Canada, Norway, Russia and the United States.

Keynote presenters include:

  • Kit M. Kovacs of the Norwegian Polar Institute will address belugas in Svalbard
  • Olga V. Shpak of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, Russia, will present beluga whale research in Russia over the last decade
  • Steve Ferguson of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, will discuss Canadian beluga populations with a presentation entitled Status of Canadian Beluga Populations: All Those Whales and Yet the Future is Uncertain
  • Robert Suydam of North Slope Borough, Department of Wildlife Management, Utqiagvik, Alaska, and Lori Quakenbush of Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Fairbanks, Alaska, will provide a summary of stock structure, population status and more of beluga whales in Alaska waters

By providing an overview of the current conservation concerns, the ongoing global research projects and the use of traditional knowledge to address those concerns, the direction of future research needs can be determined and further, population concerns can be addressed collaboratively.

The keynote presentations will set the tone for the esteemed group of experts that will be participating over the three-day event.

“It is my hope that through this conference, indigenous community members, scientists, wildlife managers and policy makers will exchange knowledge and strengthen networks toward a common goal of advancements in the field of beluga whale research and conservation,” said President & CEO of Mystic Aquarium, Dr. Stephen M . Coan.

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