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Are bowheads recovering?

New recordings of their songs suggest their population might be bouncing back
The bowhead whale is highly vocal, and uses underwater sounds to communicate while traveling, feeding, and socializing. Some bowheads make long, repetitive songs that may be mating calls.
 |     |   08-09-2012
In the Fram Strait — an ice-covered stretch of sea between Greenland and Norway's northernmost islands — only 40 sightings of bowhead whales had been reported in the past four decades.

The bowhead whale is the only baleen whale to spend its entire life in and around Arctic waters. The Alaskan population spends the winter months in the southwestern Bering Sea. The group migrates northward in the spring, following openings in the pack ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

Scientists dropped two underwater microphones in the Fram strait in to see if they could detect any whale sounds and were surprised by what they listened to a year later.

"We hoped to record a few little grunts and moans," Kate Stafford, lead researcher with the University of Washington, said in a statement. "We were not expecting to get five months of straight singing."

The bowhead whale has been hunted for blubber, meat, oil, bones, and baleen. The bowhead was an early whaling target. Like right whales, it swims slowly, and floats after death, making it ideal for whaling. Its population was severely reduced before a 1966 moratorium. The population is estimated to be over 24,900 worldwide. Before commercial whaling, they were estimated to number 50,000

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