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2nd International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research & Conservation

MARCH 12-14, 2019

Hosted by Mystic Aquarium | 55 Coogan Boulevard | Mystic, CT 06355 USA

Over 100 of the greatest minds in beluga conservation gathered at Mystic Aquarium to connect, communicate and collaborate; sharing traditional knowledge and exploring advances in aquarium husbandry, field biology and the latest science impacting beluga whales. By sharing expertise and establishing new collaborations, we believe we can better inform conservation and management decisions of belugas in both aquarium and wild settings.

The workshop was inspirational, knowledge-rich and simply a joy to attend. It clearly reinforced the fact that we must take action to ensure that no more beluga stocks are lost……and that declining trends in populations are reversed.
Dr. Kit M. Kovacs
Norwegian Polar Institute
This workshop was remarkable in that it brought EVERYBODY to the table to share perspectives on Beluga Conservation: Inuit hunters, researchers, and managers; scientists from the USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Japan; and aquarium researchers and husbandry staff from numerous institutions around the world with belugas in managed care. And most importantly, we had the policy makers at the table hearing the cutting edge science and sharing their insights on the legal frameworks for protecting Belugas in the wild. The energy in the room was crackling as we discussed “what next... …how do we make a difference going forward to the conservation of these magnificent animals in the face of climate change and rapid development in the Arctic”.
Ree Brennin Houston
President, Northernspring Inc.
Being able to attend the 2nd International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research & Conservation was a tremendous opportunity to hear updates on current research on beluga whales and build relationships with other scientists and veterinarians working across the world to ensure these animals remain in the arctic ecosystem for future generations. It was a great way to see how research conducted with managed animals is being translated to wild beluga studies and spurred new ideas for future conservation actions and impactful research for this species.
Dr. John Griffioen
Learn more about the information shared at the 2nd International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research & Conservation by watching a selection of presentation videos.

The 2nd International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research and Conservation was a follow-up to the first beluga workshop held in Valencia, Spain 10 years ago. This conference brought together indigenous peoples, scientists, wildlife managers and policy makers to bridge the gap between traditional knowledge, scientific research, aquarium husbandry and wildlife management with the ultimate goal of developing a cohesive plan to promote beluga research and conservation.

Much progress had been made since the first workshop, including integration of beluga tagging and health assessment studies, new migratory information on several populations, utilization of aquarium whales to answer questions about noise impacts on whale hearing and physiology, a science-based cultural and educational exchange program for indigenous youth and more. Despite this progress, environmental and anthropogenic concerns still threaten belugas and their habitat as well as the people who rely on them. In some areas of the Arctic and subarctic, beluga populations are stable while other populations, like Alaska’s Cook Inlet belugas, are critically endangered with no signs of recovery despite its highly protected status.

The 2nd International Workshop allowed us the opportunity to collectively reassess efforts moving forward to determine the best way to leverage current assets and expertise available for beluga research and conservation.

The workshop was hosted by Mystic Aquarium at their new Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center in Mystic, CT. Home to the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States, Mystic Aquarium has a team of scientists and educators dedicated to beluga research and conservation efforts.

More than ever, connections, communication, awareness and collaborations are needed to mitigate threats to belugas. We must prevent habitat degradation – which could lead to the extinction of some populations – and ensure that belugas and their ecosystems thrive because thriving beluga populations and ecosystems will ensure food security (i.e. nutrition, culture, tradition, economics, social ties) for indigenous peoples.

With numerous aquaria around the world caring for beluga whales and five polar countries managing beluga populations, there is a need to share the latest concerns, research, husbandry and management practices to enhance beluga conservation.

The 2nd International Workshop on Beluga Whale Research and Conservation achieved the following goals:

  • Reviewed the conservation threats for all beluga populations and evaluated effectiveness of current measures to mitigate these threats;
  • Evaluated advances made since the first workshop and identified remaining challenges;
  • Determined best utilization of belugas in aquaria for research to inform wild beluga biology;
  • Learned from traditional knowledge for further incorporation into research and management plans;
  • Raised public awareness by developing education and outreach programs.

The three-day workshop was organized into six major sessions:

  • Plenary
  • Beluga behavior and ecology
  • Aquarium husbandry, science and education
  • Traditional knowledge (including an evening special movie and presentation by director, writer and producer John Houston)
  • Posters
  • Full day session dedicated to beluga conservation

Session presentation topics addressed:

  • Genetics
  • Reproduction
  • Health
  • Acoustics
  • Management, policy and more
Beluga Conference Schedule


Beluga Level:
Mystic Aquarium

Polar Bear Level Sponsors:
Bulrush Foundation

Walrus Level Sponsors:
American Humane
Consulate General of Canada in New York
Fatima Matos
Hans Rollema
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
North Pacific Research Board
Oak Foundation

Bearded Seal Level Sponsors: 
Georgia Aquarium
Marine Mammal Commission
National Marine Mammal Foundation
North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management
Shedd Aquarium

Arctic Tern Level Sponsors: 
Hilcorp Inc.
InCord, Ltd.
National Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO)
The Perry Family

Arctic Char Level Sponsors: 
Alaska Sea Life Center
Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums
Society of Marine Mammology

Contact Hannah Stewart at; 
860.572.5955 x476