Science Advisory Report  2009/070

Advice relevant to the identification of critical habitat for St. Lawrence beluga (Delphinapterus leucas)

Summary

Several characteristics of beluga as a species and of the St. Lawrence population in particular should be considered when assessing the habitat critical for the survival and recovery of St. Lawrence beluga:

Given that current distribution is small relative to that used historically, recovery of this population may be tied to use of historical habitats. Therefore, access to and integrity of historical habitat should be considered important for the survival and recovery of the population.

There is a need to understand temporal use and movement patterns of individual beluga among habitats, and to establish the key features, biological functions and relative contribution of these habitats to beluga for completing their annual cycle. It is also necessary to describe seasonal beluga diet, so that areas providing prey can be identified. All of this information will be needed to assess the implications of changes in key habitat features or a reduction in availability of key habitats on the survival and recovery of St. Lawrence beluga.

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