[MARMAM] New paper: decrease in sea ice and an increase in harbour seal abundance in the Churchill River

Katie Florko katieflorko at gmail.com
Mon Feb 12 06:57:54 PST 2018


My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the publication of our paper in
Polar Biology:

Florko, K.R.N., Bernhardt, W., Breiter, C.C., Ferguson, S.H., Hainstock,
M., Young, B.G., Petersen, S.D. Decreasing sea ice conditions in western
Hudson Bay and an increase in abundance of harbour seals (*Phoca* *vitulina*)
in the Churchill River. Polar Biology, doi: 10.1007/s00300-018-2277-6



Harbour seals (*Phoca vitulina*) occur in the Arctic but little is known of
their population abundance and natural history. In western Hudson Bay, they
occur at lower numbers relative to ringed seals (*Pusa hispida*) and their
distribution is largely unknown. However, a reduction in the duration of
periods of ice cover in Hudson Bay may be shifting the habitat suitability
of the region towards one that favours harbour seals. Harbour seal counts
from a known haul-out site at the upstream extent of the Churchill River
estuary, located in northern Manitoba, were examined in relation to sea ice
conditions in western Hudson Bay. The Churchill River estuary haul-out site
was observed directly or remotely (via GigaPan™ photos) during the
open-water seasons in 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2005, and from 2014 to 2016. We
documented an increase in abundance over the study period; the maximum
number of harbour seals observed hauled out at one time was 142 in 2016,
compared to a maximum of 32 observed during monitoring activities conducted
between 1996 and 2005. In addition, newly born harbour seal pups were
observed at the haul-out site during the latter study years, an occurrence
not observed from 1996 to 2005. We suggest that an increase in the
abundance of harbour seals in Hudson Bay and potentially the entire Arctic
may be observed if climate change related reductions in the duration of ice
cover continue.

The full paper is available via this link:


Best wishes,

Katie Florko


Katie Florko, MSc Candidate

Department of Biology

York University

Toronto, ON

Twitter: @kflorko

Email: katieflorko at gmail.com
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