Article

Recent sightings of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in Northeast Greenland and the Greenland Sea

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Uusimaa, Finland
Polar Biology (Impact Factor: 1.59). 10/2005; 28(10):796-801. DOI: 10.1007/s00300-005-0001-9

ABSTRACT

By the end of the 19th century, European whalers had brought the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in the “Spitsbergen stock” ranging the waters between eastern Greenland and the western Russian Arctic to the verge of extinction.
This paper presents observations of this species in Northeast Greenland and in the Greenland Sea between 1940 and 2004. The
number of observations has increased in Northeast Greenland since the mid-1980s. Only three observations are known for the
period 1940–1979 but during the 1980s, the 1990s and between 2000 and 2004, six, six and eight observations of bowhead whales
were made, involving an absolute minimum of three, five and eight to ten different individuals, respectively. It remains uncertain
whether this represents an increase in survey effort, an immigration from other areas, a recent recovery of an eastern Greenland
relict “tribe” belonging to the Spitsbergen stock, or a combination of these factors.

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    • "However, the ice edge in the area is basically co-incident with the continental slope (see Figs. 2 and 4), so we cannot separate the potential influence of the slope from affiliation with the ice alone. It should also be noted in this context that bowhead whales have been observed along the coast of East Greenland in shallow shelf waters (Gilg and Born, 2005; Boertmann et al., 2009). The locations from November and December show that the whale returned to 80˚N, suggesting that the overwintering site for this individual is at this latitude. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Spitsbergen bowhead whale stock is critically endangered. It is believed to number in the tens. Here we report results from the first satellite transmitter ever deployed on an individual from this stock. A female whale was tagged on 3 April 2010 (at 79°54′ N, 01°03′ E), but no locations were transmitted by the tag until 30 April 2010, after which data were received continuously for 86 days. Additionally, three small clusters of locations were transmitted later in the year; the latest was received 20 December 2010 (262 days after deployment). During the 86 days of continuous tracking, the whale initially remained in the middle of the Fram Strait, between 77°45′ N, 5° W and 80°10′ N, 5° E. For a two-week period starting around 10 June 2010, the whale traveled southwest down to 73°40′ N (at least 950 km). Subsequently it remained at southern latitudes between ~70° and 73° N until the tag stopped continuous transmissions on 24 July. Movement patterns analyzed using first-passage times (FTP), fitted as functions of various environmental variables using Cox Proportional Hazards models, showed that the whale spent most of its time in waters close to the ice edge with modest ice coverage, over areas where the bottom slope was relatively steep. Winter positions (27 November-20 December 2010) revealed that the whale was back in the North at about 80° N. This information, in combination with recent data from passive acoustic listening devices, suggests that the Spitsbergen bowhead stock overwinters at high-latitude locations. The north-south movements of this whale during summer are consistent with the patterns that early whalers described for bowhead whales in this region in the 16th and 17th centuries.
    Full-text · Dataset · Mar 2012
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    • "However, the ice edge in the area is basically co-incident with the continental slope (see Figs. 2 and 4), so we cannot separate the potential influence of the slope from affiliation with the ice alone. It should also be noted in this context that bowhead whales have been observed along the coast of East Greenland in shallow shelf waters (Gilg and Born, 2005; Boertmann et al., 2009). The locations from November and December show that the whale returned to 80˚N, suggesting that the overwintering site for this individual is at this latitude. "

    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · Arctic
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    • "Based on our data, in particular the lack of control/ documentation of actual sighting " eVort " , it is not possible to make conclusions regarding population trends of bowheads around Svalbard. Gilg and Born (2005) suggest that in addition to more sightings, which may or may not represent a population increase, there has been an increase in pod sizes of the observations oV Greenland. The Svalbard data are yet not conclusive on this issue. "
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    ABSTRACT: Forty-six sightings of bowhead whales have been reported from the Svalbard area between 1940 and 2009. But, only three of these sightings are reported prior to 1980. Most observations involve only one or two whales, but groups of up to seven individuals have been seen recently. Increased ship traffic, particularly cruise-based tourism, in the north undoubtedly provides more opportunities for spotting this species, and the establishment of a structured cetacean sighting programme, as well as increase in effort in documenting sightings from a wider marine user-community, likely all play a role in more records being documented in recent years. The absence of a dedicated monitoring programme for ice-associated cetaceans and the generally low scientific activity level in this field in Svalbard Waters hampers firm conclusions about the trends in abundance of bowhead whales in the Svalbard area. KeywordsBowhead whale- Balaena mysticetus -Spitsbergen stock-Svalbard-Barents Sea
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2010 · Polar Biology
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