Polar Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 979–984 | Cite as

Observations of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Svalbard area 1940–2009

  • Øystein Wiig
  • Lutz Bachmann
  • Nils Øien
  • Kit M. Kovacs
  • Christian Lydersen
Original Paper


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.


Bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus Spitsbergen stock Svalbard Barents Sea 



We thank IMR, NPI and SMS observers for their reportings of bowheads. We are also grateful to everyone who has provided observations of bowhead whales in the Svalbard area to the Marine Mammal Sighting Database: Jason Roberts, Odd Ditlefsen (MS Langøysund), Rinie van Meurs, Arjen Drost, and Christiane Delongueville (Professor Molcahnov), Morten Joergensen, Peter Balwin and Erling Krabbe (Professor Multanovskiy), Lars Henriksen (MV Bremen), Simon Cook (MV Polar Star) and the NERC station staff in NyÅlesund have all contributed observations. We are also grateful to D. Boertmann and R.R. Reeves for constructing comments during the review process.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Øystein Wiig
    • 1
  • Lutz Bachmann
    • 1
  • Nils Øien
    • 2
  • Kit M. Kovacs
    • 3
  • Christian Lydersen
    • 3
  1. 1.National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloBlindernNorway
  2. 2.Institute of Marine ResearchNordnes, BergenNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Polar InstitutePolar Environmental CentreTromsøNorway

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