Beluga whale © Kevin Schafer / WWF
Beluga whales are extremely sociable mammals that live, hunt, and migrate together in pods in the Arctic. They are easily distinguishable by their white skin, ‘smiling’ mouth and bulbous forehead called a “melon”, which can change shape and allow them to make different facial expressions and noises, earning them the nickname of the canary of the sea.
Sea ice loss due to warming air and ocean temperatures is opening up Arctic waters to shipping, fishing, seismic surveys and military activity for a larger proportion of the year. Amongst other impacts, these activities make the oceans noisier, potentially affecting beluga whales’ ability to communicate, navigate, find food and search for mates.