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First humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) re-sighting between Azorean waters and the Barents Sea (Murman coast, northwestern Russia)


Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are one of the most well studied baleen whales worldwide and one of the species targeted during the historic North Atlantic whaling period. Northwestern Russia (Barents Sea), a poorly studied region for humpbacks, is recognized as an important fishing area for their prey capelin (Mallotus villosus). In the last century, this fish species collapsed, possibly due to overfishing both in Russian and Norwegian waters, which led to these governments imposing strict fishing restrictions. In past decades the southern part of the Barents Sea has faced warming ocean temperatures and less sea ice. Here, we present the first humpback photographic match between the Azores and northwestern Russia (Murmansk, Barents Sea). A humpback whale sighted on 14 March 2019 in the Azorean waters, was resighted opportunistically on 21 June, 2019 off the Murman coast, Russia. The estimated distance between the two sites is approximately 6778 km, representing a migratory speed of 2.88 km·h−1. Strict regulations on the summer capelin fisheries in the Murman coastline and Barents Sea, along with global warming may lead to new habitats for both fish prey and predators (i.e., humpback whales) to return to this region.

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The authors wish to thank both reviewers, Edda Magnusdottir and Kelly Waples for the very helpful comments and suggestions. The results presented in this study result from a collaborative effort between the authors.


This work was supported by a PhD Grant funding (UI/BD/151306/2021) from Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT).

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RPS and FWW wrote and conceived the manuscript. RPS, RM and AC provided the Photo-Id pictures. FWW provided the Photo-Id match. TC and LSJ made the critical revision on the short note. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rui Peres dos Santos.

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The authors declare no conflict of interests.

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Peres dos Santos, R., Martins, R., Chaiko, A. et al. First humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) re-sighting between Azorean waters and the Barents Sea (Murman coast, northwestern Russia). Polar Biol 45, 523–527 (2022).

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  • Humpback whale
  • Re-sighting
  • Azores
  • Murmansk
  • Migration
  • Arctic feeding grounds