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Distribution

Bowheads are restricted to ice borders of the Arctic, migrating with the ice pack extension and retreat, and migrating to areas of local zooplankton peaks (Moore and Reeves, 1993). There are five stocks of Bowhead: in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea; Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin; Davis Strait-Baffin Bay; Svalbard-Barents Sea (Greenland); and the Okhotsk Sea (Figure 4) (Braham, 1984). The abundance of these stocks varies depending on past whaling exploitation. The Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea stock has been increasing at an annual rate of 3.4% since 1978 (around 10,500 in 2001) (Reilly, 2012, George et al., 2004).  Davis Strait-Baffin Bay abundance was about 3,500 in 2001. There is currently insufficient estimates for the other three stocks, but due to various impacts, these show no signs of recovery (Reilly, 2012). Due to the late sexual maturity, calving interval (3-4 years) and low adult anthropogenic mortality the estimated generation time for Bowheads is around 52 years (Taylor et al., 2007) however little is known about the populations recovery from below 300 individuals (George et al., 2004).

The range of the bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus.  Each colour and number indicates the five stocks.  (Source: WWF)

Figure 4. Range of the Bowhead whale. Each colour and number indicates the five stocks. Stock 1: Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea Bowheads; stock 2: Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin; stock 3: Davis Strait-Baffin Bay; Stock 4 Svalbard-Barents Sea (Greenland); Stock 5: Okhotsk Sea (Source: WWF)

 

 

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