Western Arctic bowhead whales are distributed in ice-covered waters of the Arctic and near-Arctic, generally north of 60*N and south of 75*N in the western Arctic Basin. The largest population is in the Bering Sea. The majority of the Bering Sea bowheads migrate from wintering areas in the northern Bering Sea (November to March), through the Chukchi Sea in the spring (March through June), to the Beaufort Sea where they spend much of the summer (mid-May through September) before returning to the Bering Sea in the fall (September through November) to overwinter. Most of the year, bowhead whales are closely associated with sea ice. The bowhead spring migration follows fractures in the sea ice around the coast of Alaska, generally in the shear zone between the shorefast ice and the mobile pack ice. However, during the summer, most of the population is in relatively ice-free waters in the southern Beaufort Sea. All bowheads were commercially exploited for oil and baleen in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, reducing the population significantly. Today, only subsistence hunting by a few Alaska natives occurs. Bowhead whales can reach lengths of 19.8 m and weigh up to 100 metric tons.
- COMIDA Distribution and Relative Abundance of Marine Mammals 2008-2010
- Aerial Surveys of Endangered Whales in the Beaufort Sea, Fall 2009
- Aerial Surveys of Endangered Whales in the Beaufort Sea, Fall 2006-2008
- Bowhead Whale Aerial Surveys, years 2008 through 2013, Preliminary Data
- Current Research Projects by the Cetacean Assessment & Ecology Program
- Publications: search AFSC database for Bowhead Whales
- Posters: search AFSC database for Bowhead Whales
- Quarterly Reports
- MOCKLIN, J. A., D. J. RUGH, S. E. MOORE, and R. P. ANGLISS.
2012. Using aerial photography to investigate evidence of feeding by bowhead whales. Mar. Mamm. Sci. 28:602-619.
- IVASHCHENKO, Y. V., and P. J. CLAPHAM.
2012. Soviet catches of right whales Eubalaena japonica and bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus in the North Pacific Ocean and the Okhotsk Sea. Endang. Species Res. 18:201–217.
- SMULTEA, M., D. FERTL, D. J. RUGH, and C. E. BACON.
2012. Summary of systematic bowhead surveys conducted in the U.S. Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, 1975-2009. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-237, 48 p. Online. (.pdf, 851 KB).
- SCHWEDER, T., D. SADYKOVA, D. RUGH, and W. KOSKI.
2010. Population estimates from aerial photographic surveys of naturally and variably marked bowhead whales. J. Agric. Biol. Environ. Stat. 15:1-19.
- Search the AFSC database for additional Bowhead Whale publications
- Bowhead Whale Feeding Ecology Study (Bowfest) Five Years in Review
2.41 MB Online.
- Results from Five Years of Aerial Photographic Data from the Bowhead Whale Feeding Ecology Study (Bowfest)
1.32 MB Online.
- Hunter Based Observations of Bowhead and Gray Whales Near Barrow, Alaska
3.4 MB Online.
- Search the AFSC database for additional Bowhead Whale posters