BELUGA: a farewell to whales by Pierre Beland, 1996
(inside front cover sleeve)
The beluga whale is an Arctic species, pure white at maturity and highly intelligent. Their presence in the St. Lawrence River dates back to the last glacial melt, over 10,000 years ago. They share a complex and often disturbing history with the people of the St. Lawrence. Once numbering in the thousands, these belugas were hunted to near-extinction until they were given legal protection in 1979, when there were only five hundred left.
Over a dozen years ago, Dr. Pierre Béland became aware that the bodies of beluga whales were washing up on the river’s shores. He and a team of scientists began to investigate the cause of death. They were horrified with what they discovered. They suddenly understood why the population has not recovered.
"The whales are dying of pollution," Béland writes. "I realize how strong this last statement is—'far too strong for a scientist,' many of my colleagues would say. ... But in fact, I am simply echoing the conclusion that any careful observer of our work has come to. It is very plain."
BELUGA is the powerful story of the whales and the people of the St Lawrence River, as well as the author's transforming journey to discover the mysteries of how the white whales live, why they are dying, and what we can do to prevent the rest of the animal kingdom from paying the exorbitant price of human recklessness.