Beluga whales play underwater

Photo: Madison Stevens / Polar Bears International

Arctic Sea Ice Day and Beluga Cam Launch



15 Jul 2022

Polar Bears International Hosts Arctic Sea Ice Day, Launches Live Streaming of Phenomenal Beluga Whale Migration with

On July 15, Arctic Sea Ice Day, Polar Bears International Hosts Programs to Connect People Around the World with the Arctic; Highlights Sea Ice Breakup and Beluga Whale Migration

Churchill, Canada -- July 15, 2022 -- Polar Bears International (PBI), the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to polar bears and Arctic sea ice, will host Arctic Sea Ice Day on July 15, a day created by Polar Bears International to spark actions and conversations that bring attention to the rapidly melting Arctic ecosystem, why it matters, and how people around the globe can slow this warming trend. The Arctic is now warming three times as fast as the rest of the planet, causing the sea ice to melt. Sea ice serves as the earth’s air conditioner, helping to keep our planet cool. It's important to work together to protect the sea ice that all of us rely on.

Sea Ice and Beluga Whales

To honor Arctic Sea Ice Day, Polar Bears International and, the world’s largest nature live streaming network, will launch the Beluga Whale Live Cam, broadcasting from the Churchill River where it meets Hudson Bay. The live cam provides audiences around the globe with a front-row view into the annual migration of more than 57,000 beluga whales, who come to the warm waters of the Churchill River estuary to feed, molt, and give birth to their young. The Beluga Cam feeds into the Beluga Bits citizen science project, a collaboration between the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, and Polar Bears International, which asks people to capture and classify screenshots from the Beluga Cam. Since Beluga Bits was launched, the project has had nearly 22,000 registered participants who’ve contributed nearly 5 million photo classifications and roughly 22,000 volunteer hours. Belugas rely on sea ice for protection from predators and for feeding. Unlike many other whales, belugas lack a dorsal fin which allows the relatively slow-moving whale to use the sea ice to hide from the fast-moving orca whales.

Beluga Boat Updates: Meet Delphi

New this summer, the beloved Beluga Boat finally has a name, both for safety, and for fun! The Churchill team dubbed it “Delphi,'' short for the beluga whale’s scientific name, Delphinapterus leucas. (The genus name Delphinapterus, means "dolphin without a fin." The species name leucas, means "white.")

In another first this year, the Delphi captains will be able to see the underwater live cameras while steering the boat. BJ Kirschhoffer, Polar Bears International director of field operations, is working with the Churchill team to install a new underwater camera as well as a new camera mount that automates the lifting and lowering of the underwater camera. These innovations will improve the boat’s ability to support the Beluga Bits research project and other potential machine-learning and technology-based projects and will greatly enhance both the operator and viewer experience as well as the quality of the research data. 

“The Arctic affects us all, with the impact of sea ice health stretching far beyond this ecosystem. On Arctic Sea Ice Day we connect the dots between the warming Arctic, polar bears, beluga whales, and people,” says Krista Wright, executive director of Polar Bears International, adding, “We are excited to share the beluga whale migration with the world and build a community that cares about protecting the Arctic for future generations. Together, we can slow global warming, in turn saving the sea ice and the creatures that depend on it, with a collective, swift transition to renewable energy.”

Dave Allcorn with the beluga boat, "Delphi"

Photo: Dave Allcorn / Polar Bears International

The first official “Delphi Selfie” with Polar Bears International Churchill field assistant, Dave Allcorn.

2022 Sea Ice Breakup

PBI created Arctic Sea Ice Day to align with the average historic timing of the summer sea ice breakup on Hudson Bay, and to draw attention to the rapid changes impacting sea ice across the Arctic. For the polar bears of Hudson Bay, the ice breakup signifies the time of year when they come off the sea ice and begin fasting. Polar bears abandon the ice when it covers less than 30% of the sea surface because lower concentrations are not conducive to effectively catching seals. When forced onto land by disappearing ice, polar bears are essentially food-deprived and lose nearly two pounds of body weight per day. The date that sea ice breaks up on Hudson Bay is getting earlier, while the freeze-up is getting later, thereby expanding the polar bears’ fasting period and forcing them to rely on their fat stores for longer periods of time. 

This year, while Hudson Bay is experiencing low sea ice coverage overall compared to the past, the break-up pattern is unusual. The northern and eastern parts of the bay are mostly ice-free, potentially impacting the Foxe Basin and Davis Strait polar bear populations. But the western and southeastern parts of the bay have a little more ice, so far making this a better ice year for the Western and Southern Hudson Bay polar bear populations. Tracking data shows WHB bears are still on the ice, but very close to shore now and few have been seen on land, which is good news for people and bears in that region.

For polar bears across their range, it’s the long-term trends in sea ice loss that matter, with the current summer loss taking place at a rate of 13% per decade compared with the 1981-2010 average. Current sea ice extent is currently the 10th lowest on record with a full month of summer yet to come.

Arctic Sea Ice and Polar Bear Survival

Sea ice is to the Arctic ecosystem as soil is to the forest. It’s the basis of the Arctic marine food ecosystem, crucial for the survival of species from polar bears to beluga whales, and is used by Northern communities for transportation and access to food. Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt, breed, roam, and sometimes den. Scientists predict that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, most polar bears could disappear by 2100 due to lack of sea ice. State-of-the art climate models indicate that an ice-free Arctic in summer will likely occur by the middle of the century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t regulated. 

Tune-In on Arctic Sea Ice Day:

  1. Watch the Beluga Whale Live Cam. Be sure to turn the audio on and listen to vocalizations on the beluga cam’s hydrophone! 

  2. Join Polar Bears International for live chats in honor of Arctic Sea Ice Day, July 15:

    Thursday, July 14 at 1 pm EST: Celebrating Sea Ice! Join experts by signing up here

    Friday, July 15 at 10:45 am EST (high tide): Live from the Beluga Boat! Join Captain Kieran and a special guest by
    signing up here

Take Action:

  1. Talk about it! Have meaningful climate conversations to help make the need to take action to curb carbon emissions a kitchen table issue and policy priority, using these tips from PBI

    Join us on social media with #ArcticSeaIceDay #TalkAboutIt #ClimateAction #SaveOurSeaIce 

  2. Find action tools, social media content, and more in our Arctic Sea Ice Day Toolkit.

  3. Become part of the solution! Explore the new Advocacy Toolkit and find a variety of ways you can get involved. 

  4. Take part in the Beluga Bits project, capturing and classifying live cam moments. 

  5. Learn these facts about Arctic Sea Ice.

  6. Check out how companies like MINI USA are doing their part to reduce emissions, committing to an all-electric future and supporting PBI. Collaboration on all levels, from corporations to politicians, is key to slowing global warming. 

  7. Donate or symbolically Adopt a Polar Bear: your contribution will go towards critical Arctic research and conservation efforts.

About Polar Bears International
Polar Bears International’s mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. Through media, science, and advocacy, we work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate. PBI is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to wild polar bears and Arctic sea ice, and our staff includes scientists who study wild polar bears.The organization is a recognized leader in polar bear conservation. For more information, visit

Founded in 2004 by Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Director and Vice President of the Annenberg Foundation, is a philanthropic multimedia organization with a mission to champion the selfless acts of others and create a portal into the natural world. With over 100 live streaming cameras, is the largest live nature network in the world.

About Beluga Bits
Beluga Bits is a collaboration between the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, and Polar Bears International, among other partners. Data collected by the live cam, and classified by volunteers, helps scientists study the social structure and natural history of the beluga that visit the Churchill River in Northern Manitoba, Canada. 

Media Contacts
Annie Edwards — 
Melissa Hourigan —, 720-988-3856