Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Whales, ships more common through Bering Strait

26.02.2014

The Arctic is home to a growing number of whales and ships, and to populations of sub-Arctic whales that are expanding their territory into newly ice-free Arctic waters.

A study of the narrow passage of the Bering Strait uses underwater microphones to track the whales by their sounds. Three years of recordings reveal more detections of both Arctic and sub-Arctic whales traveling through the narrow choke point.


A fin whale is shown breaching the water's surface.

Credit: Kate Stafford, UW

Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, will present the results Feb. 26 at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu. The recordings show Arctic beluga and bowhead whales migrating seasonally through the region from the Arctic south to spend winter in the Bering Sea. They also detect large numbers of sub-Arctic humpback, fin and killer whales traveling north through the Bering Strait to feed in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea.

"It's not particularly surprising to those of us who work up in the Arctic," Stafford said. "The Arctic seas are changing. We are seeing and hearing more species, farther north, more often. And that's a trend that is going to continue."

Stafford placed microphones below the water's surface and recorded in summer and early winter from 2009 to 2012 as part of a U.S.-Russian scientific collaboration. Melodious humpback whale songs showed up regularly on recordings into late fall. Fin and killer whales, which are southern species that seldom travel into Arctic waters, were heard into early November.

"These animals are expanding their range," Stafford said. "They're taking advantage of regions in seasons that they may not have previously."

The recordings also picked up ships using the ice-free summers to travel through two international shipping lanes. This poses an increased risk of collisions between whales and ships, and of noise pollution.

"Marine mammals rely primarily on sound to navigate, to find food and to find mates. Sound is their modality," Stafford said. "If we increase the ambient sound level, it has the potential to reduce the communication range of cetaceans and all marine mammals."

The Bering Strait is famous as a land bridge that prehistoric humans used to travel from Russia to North America. Today, the waterway is 58 miles wide and maximum 160 feet deep, with about one-third of its span in U.S. waters and the rest in Russia. The two coasts are quite different, Stafford said, which makes the international collaboration essential to understanding the full environment.

A recent paper by Stafford and other scientists includes visual sightings of killer whales, a quieter southern-dwelling whale, just north of the strait in the southern Chukchi Sea. Killer whales are now seen fairly regularly in this area, which is being considered for oil and gas exploration.

"The Arctic areas are changing," Stafford said. "They are becoming more friendly to sub-Arctic species, and we don't know how that will impact Arctic whales. Will they be competitors for food? Will they be competitors for habitat? Will they be competitors for acoustic space, for instance these humpbacks yapping all the time in the same frequency band that bowheads use to communicate? We just don't know."

Stafford supports the idea of slowing ship speeds in the Bering Strait, reducing motor noise and the chance of ship strikes.

Another suggestion to protect whales builds on tagging work showing that bowhead whales tend to travel up the U.S. side on the way north in the spring and on the Russian side on their way back in the fall. The proposal suggests that ships follow the American coast in the fall and the Russian coast in the spring to reduce interactions between ships and whales.

Still to be explored is whether the increased whale travel through the region is due to rising whale populations, expanded ranges, or both. Logbooks from Soviet whaling ships in the mid-to-late 20th century report sub-Arctic whales in the region, but none were seen from about 1980 to 2010.

"The question is, are these whale populations recovering and so they're reoccupying former habitat, or are they actually invading the Arctic because they can, because there is less seasonal sea ice?" Stafford said.

Collaborators on the research are Janet Clarke at Leidos Inc. and Sue Moore at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more information, contact Stafford at 206-685-8617 or stafford@apl.washington.edu.

Stafford will speak in Session #102 at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 2:45 p.m. in room 316A.

Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

Further reports about: Administration Arctic Atmospheric Laboratory Ocean Oceanic Russian acoustic killer species

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Researchers observe major hand hygiene problems in operating rooms
30.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Electric vehicle range in 450,000 kilometer real-world test
30.03.2015 | Technische Universität Chemnitz

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

BLS Cargo orders 15 multisystem locomotives

30.03.2015 | Press release

Shark Tagged by NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute Is Apparently Enjoying Time in Warm, Tropical Waters

30.03.2015 | Life Sciences

Antarctic Ice Shelves Rapidly Thinning

30.03.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>