Some beluga whales are leaving the Arctic later because of changes in sea ice

Some Arctic beluga whales now leave the Arctic 2-4 weeks later because of delayed sea ice formation there. The change happens because the southward migration of beluga whales from the Eastern Chukchi Sea population through to the Bering Sea is determined largely by the date of sea ice formation in the Arctic areas north of Alaska, and sea ice formation is happening later in the year. On the other hand, the beluga population to the east, the Eastern Beaufort Sea population, did not change their migration timing. The research by former SAFS student Dr. Donna Hauser and Prof. Kristin Laidre, and their coauthors, appears in the journal Global Change Biology.

Locations of beluga whales from the Beaufort (left) and Chukchi (right) populations, showing their migration from the Arctic through to the Bering Sea and comparing their distributions in the 1990s (early period) and 2000s (late period).
Linkage between the date of sea ice formation in the Arctic’s Eastern Beaufort Sea region, and the migration timing of the Chukchi population of beluga whales, showing the later migration of this population with recent late freeze-up timing.
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