[MARMAM] Recent publication on the acoustic presence of fin whales in the Bering Strait region

Erica Escajeda escajeda at uw.edu
Mon Jun 22 08:01:50 PDT 2020

Dear MARMAM Community,

It is with great pleasure that I, along with my co-authors, announce our
recent publication:

Variability in fin whale (*Balaenoptera physalus*) occurrence in the Bering
Strait and southern Chukchi Sea in relation to environmental factors

*Abstract*: Fin whales (*Balaenoptera physalus*) are common summer visitors
to the Pacific Arctic, migrating through the Bering Strait and into the
southern Chukchi Sea to feed on seasonally-abundant prey. The abundance and
distribution of fin whales in the Chukchi Sea varies from year-to-year,
possibly reflecting fluctuating environmental conditions. We hypothesized
that fin whale calls were most likely to be detected in years and at sites
where productive water masses were present, indicated by low temperatures
and high salinities, and where strong northward water and wind velocities,
resulting in increased prey advection, were prevalent. Using acoustic
recordings from three moored hydrophones in the Bering Strait region from
2009–2015, we identified fin whale calls during the open-water season
(July–November) and investigated potential environmental drivers of
interannual variability in fin whale presence. We examined near-surface and
near-bottom temperatures (T) and salinities (S), wind and water velocities
through the strait, water mass presence as estimated using published T/S
boundaries, and satellite-derived sea surface temperatures and sea-ice
concentrations. Our results show significant interannual variability in the
acoustic presence of fin whales with the greatest detections of calls in
years with contrasting environmental conditions (2012 and 2015). Colder
temperatures, lower salinities, slower water velocities, and weak southward
winds prevailed in 2012 while warmer temperatures, higher salinities,
faster water velocities, and moderate southward winds prevailed in 2015.
Most detections (96%) were recorded at the mooring site nearest the
confluence of the nutrient-rich Anadyr and Bering Shelf water masses, ~35
km north of Bering Strait, indicating that productive water masses may
influence the occurrence of fin whales. The disparity in environmental
conditions between 2012 and 2015 suggests there may be multiple
combinations of environmental factors or other unexamined variables that
draw fin whales into the Pacific Arctic.

*Citation*: Escajeda, E., K. M. Stafford, R. A. Woodgate, and K. L. Laidre.
2020. Variability in fin whale (*Balaenoptera physalus*) occurrence in the
Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea in relation to environmental
factors. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography,
104782, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2020.104782.

Please feel free to contact me for a .pdf copy.

Wishing you all health and happiness,

Erica Escajeda
PhD Student
Laidre Lab <https://staff.washington.edu/klaidre/>
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
University of Washington
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