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ESR 45:209-224 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01132

Interannual variability in acoustic detection of blue and fin whale calls in the Northeast Atlantic High Arctic between 2008 and 2018

Heidi Ahonen1,*, Kathleen M. Stafford2, Christian Lydersen1, Catherine L. Berchok3, Sue E. Moore4, Kit M. Kovacs1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
3Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA/AFSC, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
4Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98105, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Northern Hemisphere blue and fin whales are regular summer migrants to Arctic waters. Given the profound changes the Arctic is currently undergoing due to global warming, changes in habitat use and distribution of these migratory species are predicted. In this study, 3 passive acoustic recorders, 2 in Fram Strait about 95 km apart and 1 north of the Svalbard Archipelago (Atwain), were used to investigate the spatial and temporal vocal occurrence of these species in the Northeast Atlantic High Arctic. Acoustic data were available for 7 years for western Fram Strait (WFS), 2.5 years for central Fram Strait (CFS) and 3 years for Atwain. At both Fram Strait locations, most blue whale call detections occurred from August through October, though recently (2015-2018) in WFS a clear increase in blue whale call rates was detected in June/July, suggesting an expansion of the seasonal occurrence of blue whales. In WFS, fin whale calls were detected intermittently, at low levels, almost year-round. In CFS, fin whale calls were more frequent but occurred mainly from July through December. At Atwain, blue whale detections commenced in July, both species were recorded in September/October and fin whale calls extended into November. Results from this study provide novel long-term baseline information about the occurrence of blue and fin whales at extreme northerly locations, where traditional ship-based survey methods are seasonally limited. Continued sampling will support investigation of how environmental change influences cetacean distribution and habitat use.


KEY WORDS: Balaenoptera musculus musculus · Balaenoptera physalus · Passive acoustic monitoring · Seasonal occurrence · Temporal expansion


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Cite this article as: Ahonen H, Stafford KM, Lydersen C, Berchok CL, Moore SE, Kovacs KM (2021) Interannual variability in acoustic detection of blue and fin whale calls in the Northeast Atlantic High Arctic between 2008 and 2018. Endang Species Res 45:209-224. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01132

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