Exceptional sighting of 80+ Bowhead Whales
On the North Atlantic Odyssey (PLA04-15-WBC, chartered by Inezia Tours and Natuurpunt.be) the Greenland expedition passengers on s/v Plancius counted 80 – 100 bowhead whales (Greenland Whales) Balaena mysticetus on at the edge of the sea ice between Northeast Greenland and Spitsbergen.
Find of the century
The sighting of 80+ different bowhead whales is the highest number ever recorded on one day in the Atlantic Arctic since the 17th Century. According to the IUCN Red List, where the bowhead whale in this area is listed as critically endangered, the previous record was a sighting of 66 whales in 1983.
This was then estimated to be the majority of bowhead whales in the NE Greenland and Svalbard subpopulation. Up to 20 individuals have been sighted thereafter but with no evidence of calves.
A dedicated survey in the Fram Strait in the spring of 2006 resulted in only eight sightings of bowhead whales. In 2008 another survey was made in the same area but also extending further south along the ice edge resulting in no sightings at all.
Troels Jacobsen (MSc, Marine Mammal Biologist Oceanwide Expeditions): “It is like witnessing the resurrection of a sub-population of bowhead whales that was not thought to be counting more than tens of individuals. This opens intriguing possibilities for both science and Arctic cruises for the future”.
Bowhead whale population on the increase
This sighting supports that the bowhead whale population in the Fram Strait is on the increase, which is in accordance with the increase of the populations in Disko Bay (West Greenland) in winter and in Franz Josef Land (Russian Atlantic Arctic), both areas also visited by the ships of Oceanwide Expeditions.