[MARMAM] New Publication: Seal and Polar Bear Behavioral Response to an Icebreaker Vessel in Northwest Greenland

Kate Lomac-MacNair klomacmacnair at gmail.com
Mon Sep 23 17:06:38 PDT 2019

We are pleased to announce the publication of a the following paper:

Lomac-MacNair, Kate; Andrade, José Pedro; and Esteves, Eduardo (2019) "Seal
and Polar Bear Behavioral Response to an Icebreaker Vessel in Northwest
Greenland," *Human–Wildlife Interactions*: Vol. 13: Iss. 2, Article 13.


Icebreaker vessels are important scientific tools, enabling access and
research within the polar regions of the world, including the High Arctic.
These vessels have the potential to overlap with marine mammal habitats in
infrequently studied areas. Marine mammal behavioral responses to
icebreaker vessel presence and distance at which responses occur are not
well documented or understood. During the Petermann 2015 Expedition on the
icebreaker *Oden*, seal and polar bear (*Ursus maritimus*) data were
collected in Petermann Fjord (Northwest Greenland), the adjacent Nares
Strait region, and transit to and from Thule, Greenland over 31 days (July
30 to August 30, 2015). We examined behavioral responses from 4 pinniped
species: bearded seal (*Erignathus barbatus*), ringed seal (*Pusa hispida*),
harp seal (*Pagophilus groenlandicus*), and hooded seal (*Crystophora
cristata*), as well as the polar bear to an icebreaker vessel in a rarely
studied region of northwest Greenland. We investigated the rate of flush
response, entering the water from a previously hauled out (i.e., resting)
location on ice in relation to seal distance to the vessel. Our results
showed a significant difference (independent *t*-test, *P *≤ 0.001) between
seal distance to the vessel when a flush response occurred (mean = 467.1 m,
SD = 212.39 m) and when no flush response occurred (mean = 1334.0 m, SD =
433.89 m). There were fewer flush responses by seals to the icebreaker at
distances >600 m and no flush responses by seals to the icebreaker at
distances >800 m. We used a logistic model to describe the relationship
between the proportion of seals that flushed and distance from the
icebreaker. Results of the logistical model showed the estimated distance
at which 50% of the seals flushed to be 709.45 m (SE = 9.24, *t* = 76.8,
*P *< 0.0001). Three polar bears were recorded during the transit, and a
behavioral response (e.g., look, approach, move away) was recorded for all
3 sightings. Our preliminary findings are relevant to assess potential
impacts of increasing vessel activity in the High Arctic and to assist in
the development of effective monitoring and mitigation strategies.

Our paper is available online at:

Or via e-mail request to klomacmacnair at gmail.com


Kate Lomac-MacNair

PhD Candidate

Center of Marine Sciences (CCMAR)

University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal

klomacmacnair at gmail.com
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