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Session Highlights at Mystic Aquarium’s Upcoming Beluga Conference


Mystic, Conn. (March 1, 2019): As the countdown to the much-anticipated Second International Workshop on Beluga Research and Conservation begins, Mystic Aquarium is announcing additional conference details. With the overall goal of the conference to connect, collaborate and share traditional knowledge and exploration of advances in aquarium husbandry, field biology and the latest science impacting beluga whales, an esteemed panel of presenters will address major topics over the three-day conference scheduled for March 12-14, 2019.

Session I: Behavior and Ecology – Tuesday, March 12
Session II: Aquarium Animal Husbandry, Science & Education – Wednesday, March 13
Session IV: Conservation and Management – Thursday, March 14

The conference’s first session on Behavior & Ecology will be led by Lori Quakenbush, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Veronique Lesage, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and will include eight (8) speakers covering a variety of topics on Behavior & Ecology.

Among the highlights will be a presentation by John J. Burns of Living Resources, Inc. in Fairbanks, AK, titled “Why are Many Beluga Populations so Susceptible to Over-Exploitation and Why do they Not Recover?”

Scheduled for March 13, Session II on Aquarium Animal Husbandry, Science and Education will be moderated by Mystic Aquarium’s own Dr. Tracy A. Romano. The session will include nine (9) speakers discussing research and findings from animals in human care relating to vocalization, dive adaptations, immune systems and more. Among the highlights will be a presentation by Romano on “The Role of Aquaria in Beluga Research and Conservation.”

Led by Manuel Castellote of the Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center,  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  and the University of Washington, Seattle along with Ree Brennin of Northernspring, LLC, and Veronique Lesage, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Conservation & Management Session on March 14 will consist of 17 presentations from experts on conservation and management of populations throughout the world. Highlights of the day-long session include presentations on critically endangered Cook Inlet (AK) beluga and on the declining beluga population of the St. Lawrence Estuary (QC).

Veronique Lesage of Fisheries and Oceans Canada will present on the “Aggravating Effects of Climate Variability on a Small Arctic Population at the Southern Limits of its Species’ Distribution and Exposed to Multiple Human Stressors: the St. Lawrence Beluga.” An overview of Conservation and Management of the Endangered Cook Inlet Population in Alaska will be provided by Verena A. Gill of NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Region.

“For decades, Mystic Aquarium scientists have traveled to the remote reaches of the Arctic, where we have worked alongside wildlife managers and Alaska Native communities to study wild beluga populations and collect critical information about their health. This conference exemplifies our ongoing commitment to bring a global community together to conserve belugas and their Arctic home, and to leverage the capacity of Aquarium’s as leaders in wildlife conservation to bridge science and traditional knowledge,” said Katie Cubina, Senior Vice President, Mission Programs.

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.

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