The Western Arctic bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is highly adapted to sea ice and annually migrates through the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. While the overall distribution and seasonal movements of bowhead whales are mostly understood, information about their distribution in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in early to mid-summer has not been well documented. In July 2011, we conducted an exploratory flight in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea, north of Camden Bay (71°N 144°W), near the location of a single satellite-tagged bowhead whale. Eighteen bowhead whales were observed, and behavior consistent with feeding was documented. To our knowledge, this is the first documentation of behavior consistent with feeding north of Camden Bay in mid-July. Few studies have focused on bowhead whale distribution in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in early to mid-summer, and no long-term, region-wide surveys have been conducted during summer. Bowhead whales are already exposed to anthropogenic disturbance in the Canadian Beaufort Sea in summer, the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in fall, and the Chukchi and Bering seas from fall through spring. The presence of bowhead whale aggregations in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in summer should be considered when assessing the cumulative effects of human-related activities.
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The aerial survey was conducted by the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML), Alaska Fisheries Science Center under National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Permit 14245 and funded via an Interagency Agreement (M11PG00033) with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The survey would not have been possible without support from Jeffrey Denton and Charles Monnett (BOEM). Clearwater Air, Inc. provided the aircraft and pilots (Baine Thorn and Eric Seller), as well as logistical support (Andrew Harcombe). Jan Bennett and Lark Wuerth (Department of the Interior, National Business Center, Aviation Management Division) provided flight following, and Mike Hay (XeraGIS) provided programming support. Satellite tagging in Canada occurred under Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Permit S10/11-3018-YK-A1 and Animal Use Protocol 2010-034. The satellite-tagging project was a cooperative project involving several organizations, including the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, North Slope Borough (NSB), Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committees, Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We are especially grateful to James and Charles Pokiak, who provided tagging assistance in Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. Funding for satellite tagging was provided by BOEM with essential support from Charles Monnett. Funding in Canada was provided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Panel of Energy Research and Development, and Fisheries Joint Management Committee. We would also like to thank Julie Mocklin, Bernadette Allen, and Nancy Friday (NMML), Lois Harwood (DFO), Craig George (NSB), and an anonymous reviewer for reviewing this note and providing valuable comments. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.
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Christman, C.L., Citta, J.J., Quakenbush, L.T. et al. Presence and behavior of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in July 2011. Polar Biol 36, 1851–1856 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-013-1395-4
- Bowhead whale
- Balaena mysticetus
- Alaskan Beaufort Sea
- Camden Bay
- Summer feeding
- Cumulative effects