The Vancouver Aquarium has shipped off its only male beluga whale to an aquarium in Texas for an extended stay.

Imaq was shipped to the Sea World in San Antonio Saturday night, on a five-year temporary loan.

The primary reason for the move is construction at the Vancouver facility, where the belugas' pools are being extended.

Mating can't occur during the rebuild, according to aquarium general manager Clint Wright.

"We really don't want any breeding going on while we've got construction happening," Wright said.

But he added that it wouldn't be healthy to prevent the 23-year old Imaq from doing what comes naturally for an extended period.

"He's 23 years old. Construction is likely to go on for at least three years, probably four or five," said Wright. "Having him unable to breed for that length of time would be a problem."

Fewer whales from the wild

Wright said that all the belugas in North America are managed as a group, and it was decided to move Imaq to a facility where they have some breeding-age females and he can continue to do his part in bringing more beluga calves into the world.

"One of the things that does is ensure there's more belugas coming through, but also that there's less reason for other facilities to go to the wild to collect."

The Aquarium's four female belugas will remain in Vancouver during construction.

The new pool will be nearly three times the size of the current beluga containment area when building is complete.

With files from the CBC's Lisa Johnson and Angie Brar