The recent extreme loss of sea ice has opened new migration gateways into the Arctic for whales that once headed to the far north only in the summer, researchers announced this week.
Based on new hydrophone surveys, researchers say that humpback and fin whales — who prefer warmer waters — would be able to move into the habitat of bowhead and beluga whales for a longer period, increasing competition for food and resources.
The findings were announced at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy this week in San Francisco. Climate change is one of the leading themes among the more than 2,000 researchers, who are presenting reports documenting its impact on species from polar bears to sea otters and walruses to whales.
Beluga whales could face increased competition as climate change affects the Arctic, researchers say.
Marine mammals, especially those in the Arctic, are sentinel species that reflect and provide insight into environmental changes, says Sue Moore, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.