Up to 20 beluga whales are trapped in the sea ice near Grise Fiord, Nunavut, a local conservation officer said.

Between 15 and 20 trapped whales were reported to the high Arctic hamlet's wildlife office by a local hunter earlier this month.

Conservation officer Jeffrey Qaunaq told CBC News that the whales are stuck in sea ice about 50 kilometres southeast of the community.

"We have seen more trapped belugas closer to the floe edge, and there were about three to four holes," Qaunaq said.

"We've seen a couple of cracks, so we are hoping that the belugas will go to the cracks and start heading to the floe edge."

This is not the first time beluga Grise Fiord residents have seen trapped whales: the same thing happened near the community in 1999, Qaunaq said. At the time, hunters made holes in the ice to coax the trapped belugas to the ice floe edge.

The current group of whales will be monitored regularly, Qaunaq said.