National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

Multi-year occurrence of sei whale calls in North Atlantic polar waters

Nieukirk, S.L., D.K. Mellinger, R.P. Dziak, H. Matsumoto, and H. Klinck

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 147(3), 1842–1850, doi: 10.1121/10.0000931, View online (2020)

In 2009–2014, autonomous hydrophones were deployed on established long-term moorings in the Fram Strait and Greenland Sea to record multi-year, seasonal occurrence of vocalizing cetaceans. Sei whales have rarely been observed north of ∼72°N, yet there was acoustic evidence of sei whale presence in the Fram Strait for several months during all five years of the study. More sei whale calls were recorded at the easternmost moorings in the Fram Strait, likely because of the presence of warm Atlantic water and a strong front concentrating prey in this area. Sei whale vocalizations were not recorded at the Greenland Sea 2009–2010 mooring, either because this area is not part of the northward migratory path of sei whales or because oceanographic conditions were not suitable for foraging. No clear relationship between whale presence and water temperature data collected coincident with acoustic data was observed, but decadal time series of water temperature data collected in the eastern Fram Strait by others exhibit a warming trend, which may make conditions suitable for sei whales. Continued monitoring of the region will be required to determine if the presence of sei whales in these polar waters is ephemeral or a common occurrence.

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