Feature Interview: What acoustics can tell us about whales in the Arctic

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A new study suggests that certain species of sub-Arctic whales are increasingly making their way through the Bering Strait towards Arctic waters, raising questions about what may be causing these species to expand their territory.

The Bering Strait, site of recent research on whale migration. (iStock)
The Bering Strait, site of recent research on whale migration. (iStock)

Researchers used underwater microphones to track the whales as they made their way through the strait towards the Chukchi Sea.

Besides Arctic beluga and bowhead whales, the microphones picked up large numbers of sub-Arctic killer whales and humpback whales swimming to the Arctic.

Here’s some of what the researchers heard:

Humpback whales in the Bering Strait: 

Killer Whales in the Bering Strait

Those involved in the U.S. – Russia study say their findings raise interesting questions about what is actually driving the sub-Arctic whales into the Arctic and if they could one day become competition for Arctic bowhead and beluga whales.

To find out more, Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn spoke with researcher Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

Related Links:

Reports of more killer whales in Nunavut, Canada waters, CBC News
Endangered North Pacific whales may receive stricter U.S. protection

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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