One day in Quebec, a baby beluga whale washes up on a gravel beach along the St. Lawrence River, still vigorously alive. This baby whale’s story takes us on a larger journey through the world of the St. Lawrence beluga whales and of the scientists who are working to help them. Through their camaraderie and hard work, and through glimmers of hope, they take unusual steps to try and save her.
CALL OF THE BABY BELUGA begins with the eventful history of the 900 remaining belugas that now live in the estuary of the St. Lawrence River in central Quebec. This story starts with the surprising basic fact that these members of a species adapted to arctic survival make their home in a decidedly temperate climate. The film explains how these whales arrived in waters that would become the St. Lawrence at the end of the Ice Age, then stayed because of favourable conditions when most other belugas moved far to the north as the ice receded.
The story becomes grim as European whalers then settlers killed thousands of belugas for leather and oil. Then, in the 1920s, the government put a bounty on belugas because fishermen mistakenly believed the whales were destroying fisheries. Commercial hunting continued until 1959, and sport hunting lasted another two decades. Then, out of the decimation of the killing, the whales were suddenly embraced by humans when we learned of their intelligence and social lives.
The film describes this development, led on the St. Lawrence by two young women who studied belugas’ social lives from a rocky point and a tiny boat in the 1970s, and a toxicologist who stumbled on a whale carcass, which changed his life and the lives of the whales. The story shows how discoveries from research illuminated an unexpectedly close relationship between these whales and the explosion of industrial development that made the St. Lawrence watershed the heart of world industrial development for a century.
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