Bowhead Whale

(also known as the Northern Right Whale and the Greenland Right Whale)

Inuktitut name - Arvitt

Colour - dark greyish-brown; belly spotted white; lower jaw and throat white with black spots

Length - 15 to 20 metres

Shape - head over 1/3 of length; back often out of water when basking; dorsal fin absent

Behaviour - spout V-shaped; swims slowly; often solitary and near shore; many young are raised in Lancaster Sound area (Eclipse Sound, Admiralty Inlet, Prince Regent Inlet); diet consists largely of zooplankton, although many organisms, including fish, are engulfed as the animals cruise collecting food in their open mouths

Distribution - there are several distinct subpopulations [1) one migrates to Hudson and Davis Straits in fall, returning through Lancaster Sound to areas farther west (some remain along east coast Baffin Island in summer), 2) one migrates to Bering Sea, returning to Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf, 3) one remains in Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin in summer, and Hudson Strait in winter]; Isabella Bay, on eastern Baffin Island, is a special area for Bowheads, harbouring many whales (apparently in waters that offer protection from Killer Whales, as well as food)

Sensitivity - initial reaction to vessel is generally to try to outswim it; when an overtaking vessel approaches, the whales often change course from the boat's track; the whales cease fleeing after vessels are a few kilometres past; the most common reaction to aircraft is a quick dive, a turn away from the aircraft, or dispersal from the area being circled

Note - It is thought that only a few hundred Bowhead Whales remain in the Canadian Arctic (perhaps a few thousand in other areas of the Arctic), and the population does not seem to be increasing despite a moratorium on hunting.

 [Bowhead Whale thumbnail] Bowhead Whale (69 KB) Lancaster Sound Area
Distribution Maps:
Fall Scenario
Spring (Ice Scenario 1)
Spring (Ice Scenario 2)
Spring (Ice Scenario 3)
Summer Scenario
Coronation Gulf Area
Distribution Maps:
This species is not sensitive in this area, therefore no maps are presented.

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