Research Document - 2008/082

Habitat Use by Bowhead Whales (Balaena mysticetus) of the Eastern Canadian Arctic

By L. Dueck and S.H. Ferguson


Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the eastern Canadian Arctic were designated as Threatened by COSEWIC in May 2005. The primary reason for the historic collapse and Threatened designation of this population was an intensive commercial harvest which took place primarily during the 19th century. Here, we provide a review of relevant information available regarding bowhead habitat, by describing the features that characterize bowhead habitat, and evaluating to the extent possible, the quantity and quality of habitat used by bowheads, the biological functions served by different habitats, and existing or potential threats to habitat or access to habitat. Using habitat utilization distributions based on telemetry results for 2002-2006, we describe bowhead whale habitat use in the eastern Canadian Arctic relative to seasonal movements and possible functions of habitats selected. We discuss research necessary to provide the information on habitat relationships required to properly designate “critical” habitat for eastern Arctic bowhead whales.

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