________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000

cover St. Lawrence River Belugas. (Champions of the Wild Series).

Christian Bruyere (Director & Producer). Michael Chechik (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
25 min., 30 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 144.

Subject Headings:
White whale-Ecology-Saint Lawrence River
Endangered species.
Wildlife conservation-Saint Lawrence River.
Wildlife films-Canada.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Ruth McMahon.

*** /4


Little is known about the habits of the Beluga whales (Beluga is Russian for white). They spend 15% of their time on the ocean surface which is the only time people like Robert Michaud can observe this endangered species. Since 1984 M. Michaud has been studying and championing the Beluga whales of the St. Lawrence River.
This video traces the decline of this highly developed marine mammal. At the time the white man arrived in the 15th century, there were an estimated 10,000 Beluga whales. In 1983, when the population dropped to 500, the Beluga were declared endangered. The Belugas were hunted for their skin and blubber. Fishermen claimed the Belugas were eating far too much cod and salmon, thereby endangering their livelihood. The Canadian government put a "hefty" bounty on Beluga tails. And, in 1929, Belugas were used as target practice by the RCAF. But the most deadly threat to the Beluga is the pollution of the St. Lawrence River, the result of pulp mills and smelters.
    In 1984, Greenpeace brought attention to the plight of the whales and their efforts resulted in a clean up. In 1996, the World Wildlife Federation and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans developed a recovery plan for marine animals, the first in Canada. Michaud believes the number of increased calf sightings is a sign of a comeback of this species.
    Some of the information on the Beluga provided in this video includes: size, weight, physical appearance and in-depth description of their highly developed sonar. The footage of the Belugas is very good. This video focuses equally on the Beluga and the work of Robert Michaud. The liner notes, which are informative and helpful, include website addresses and other related videos. There is also a series of suggested pre and post viewing questions.


Ruth McMahon, of Lethbridge, AB, has been interested in Beluga whales since seeing them in an aquarium and aware of the pollution in the St. Lawrence since attempting to swim in it 30 years ago.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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