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

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

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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