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Distribution of minke whales in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas (60°W–120°W), with special reference to environmental/physiographic variables

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The relationship between the distribution of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas (longitude between 60°W and 120°W), and environmental and physiographic variables (sea-surface temperature, sea-ice extension, and sea-floor-slope type), was studied to determine whether these environmental and physical factors affect the distribution and density of minke whales. The analysis was based on sightings data obtained from the 1989/90 and 1982/83 IWC/IDCR cruises. The mean sea-surface temperatures for comparable areas were significantly higher in 1989/90 (2.04°C) than in 1982/83 (1.12°C), and the area where the sea-surface temperature was greater than 1°C in the 1989/90 study was approximately twice that of the 1982/83 study. Additionally, during the surveys, the extent of the sea ice in 1989/90 was less than that in 1982/83, with the mean ice edge about 92.6 km (50 nautical miles; 1 nautical mile ≈1.852 km) farther south in 1989/90 than in 1982/83. This is consistent with the sea ice extent observed in winter, when the sea ice extent was less in 1989 than in 1982. The distribution of minke whales was substantially different between the two surveys, with the density and abundance of minke whales being greater in 1982/83 than in 1989/90. The warmer sea-surface temperatures, fewer cold-water intrusions, and the smaller extent of sea ice in 1989/90 may be related to the difference in distribution of minke whales from 1982/83, possibly owing to the shift in availability of prey.
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Keywords: Amundsen Sea; Bellingshausen Sea; climatic warming; distribution; minke whale; oceanographic variability; sea ice; sea temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Marine Ecology Research Institute, 3–29 Jinbo-cho, Kanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101–0051, Japan, 2: Governor’s Bay, Lyttelton RD 1, New Zealand, 3: Moon Joyce Resources, 11740 Exeter Avenue NE, Seattle, Washington 98125, USA, 4: NTT Data Cooperation, 66–2 Horikawa-cho, Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 210–0913, Japan

Publication date: 2000-09-01

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