Common Name: Bowhead Whale
Scientific Name: Balaena mysticetus
The Bowhead Whale,Balaena mysticetes which means they have baleen plates instead of teeth for filtering food out of the ocean. Bowhead whales have extremely long baleen plates (up to 14 feet (m)) and feed almost exclusively on zooplankton, which includes small to moderately sized crustaceans such as copepods, euphausiids, and mysids, as well as other invertebrates and fish. Bowhead whales have a dark body and a distinctive white chin. Unlike most cetaceans, they lack a dorsal fin.
Bowhead whales have also been hunted by indigenous peoples for food and fuel for the last 2,000 years. Subsistence harvest is currently regulated by quotas set by the International Whaling Commission This link is an external site. and are allocated and enforced by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Bowhead whales are harvested by Alaskan Natives in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas.
The bowhead whale has a massive bow-shaped skull that is over 16.5 feet (5 m) long and about 30-40% of their total body length. This large skull allows the bowhead whale to break through thick ice with its head. The bowhead whale also has a 17-19 inch (43-50 cm) thick blubber layer, thicker than any other whale's blubber.
Bowheads live in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. They spend most of the summer in relatively ice-free waters of seas adjacent to the Arctic Ocean. They are associated with sea ice the rest of the year.
The historic worldwide abundance of bowhead whales prior to commercial exploitation is estimated at about 30,000-50,000. Commercial exploitation drove the worldwide abundance down to about 3,000 by the 1920s. Current abundance is estimated between 7,000 and 10,000 animals
or Region Found
Bowhead whales are circumpolar, ranging throughout high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. They spend the winter associated with the southern limit of the pack ice and move north as the sea ice breaks up and recedes during spring. Five stocks of bowhead whales have been recognized. Three of these stocks occur in the North Atlantic: the Spitsbergen, Baffin Bay-Davis Straight, and Hudson Bay-Fox Basin stocks; and two in the North Pacific: the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort stocks.