Bowhead Whales

From: Kim Marshall-Tilas (
Date: Mon Jun 03 2002 - 12:38:33 EDT

Hello Siri and Adrienne,

I have answered your questions below about bowhead whales to the best of my
knowledge. I have also inserted links that you can go to to find out
specific information about bowhead whales. For additional information
please try WhaleNet's species/classification information page at

1. How many bowhead whales were spotted in 2001? Try this web to see
if their results section is complete to answer this question.

2. What is the bowhead population now? What was it in 1902? How many
bowheads are killed each year?
The bowhead whale is one of the most endangered of all the large whales. It
was hunted to near extinction from a population of around 50,000. It is
been estimated at about 7,800 today. Commercial whaling of bowhead
populations began in the 1600s near Greenland. During this time, whalers
wiped out entire herds of whales in one area and then moved on to others. In
the North Pacific, the commercial fishery did not begin until the mid-1800s,
but within two decades over 60 percent of the bowhead whale population had
been killed. The stock off Alaska has increased since commercial whaling
ceased. In 1990 the population was roughly 41 percent of the pre-whaling
population. Alaska Natives continue to take small numbers of bowhead whales
in subsistence hunts each year. This level of harvest (25-40 animals
annually) is not expected to affect the stock's recovery. (source:

3. When did bowhead whales become an endangered species? Why?
Please try this site for an overview of how and why bowhead whales became

4. How is MN (Minnesota) trying to help? How is the world as a whole trying
to help?
I am not sure what MN is doing specifically to help but other conservation
efforts involve reducing or ending the hunting of this species. Agencies who
are playing parts in the conservation of the species are the Alaskan Eskimo
Whaling Commission (AEWC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) (Shelden and Rugh 1995). Native people have been
allowed to take only one whale every two years (Nicklen 2000). (Source:

5. Do bowhead whales live anywhere else other than the Arctic? Do bowhead
whales migrate?
Four or five separate stocks of bowhead whales inhabit Arctic waters. The
bowhead whales found off Alaska spend the winter months in the southwestern
Bering Sea. They migrate northward in the spring, following openings
("leads") in the pack ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Their primary
prey are krill and zooplankton. Bowheads are slow swimmers and usually
travel alone or in small herds of up to six animals. Although they may stay
below the water surface for as long as forty minutes in a single dive, they
are not thought to be deep divers.

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