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Population size and trends of St. Lawrence Estuary beluga in 2022

National Peer Review - National Capital Region

Febrary 20-24, 2023
Montreal, Quebec

Chairperson: Sean MacConnachie


The St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) beluga population is at the southernmost limit of the species distribution. When last assessed in 2012, the population was declining at an annual rate of approximately 1% per year and counted approximately 900 individuals. Based on this information, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) reassessed the population from “threatened” to “endangered” in Canada in 2014. Accordingly, the status of the population under the Species at Risk Act was also revised in 2017.

Since the last population assessment, multiple visual and photographic aerial surveys have been conducted to estimate abundance of SLE beluga, along with further work to refine correction factors for availability and perception biases. In addition, a population viability analysis has indicated that the recovery target set in the 2012 Recovery Strategy for population size was unrealistic (Williams et al. 2021).

Given the change in status and population trends, and acquisition of new information on abundance and seasonally important habitats, the Species at Risk Program is looking to update the Recovery Strategy as soon as possible.


In this context, DFO Science has been requested:

  1. To provide a current population estimate and updated trends (current and future) of the SLE beluga
  2. To evaluate the risk of quasi-extinction (less than 50 individuals, as defined by SARA) over a 100-years (or 3-generation, as appropriate)
  3. To provide updated recovery targets over a 100 years.

Expected Publications

Expected Participation


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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