Abundance and distribution of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) on the summering grounds in Greenland between 2007-2019

R. G. Hansen*, D. L. Borchers, M. P. Heide-Jørgensen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Narwhal abundance in West Greenland (WG) and East Greenland (EG) was estimated from aerial surveys conducted between 2007 and 2019 at their summer grounds. Analyses were completed using Mark Recapture Distance Sampling and Hidden Markov Line Transect Models taking account of the stochastic availability of diving whales. No statistically significant difference in abundance of narwhals could be detected for the two summer grounds (Melville Bay and Inglefield Bredning) in WG between 2007 and 2019. The distribution of narwhals in Inglefield Bredning was similar between years but in Melville Bay, area usage has decreased >80% since the first survey in 2007. Few detections of narwhals were obtained during the surveys in EG and a common detection function was fitted from combining sightings from seven surveys. Narwhals were found in small aggregations distributed between Nordostrundingen and south to and including Tasiilaq. Abundance of narwhals was estimated for the first time in the relatively unexplored Northeast Greenland (Dove Bay and a restricted coastal area of the Greenland Sea). The abundance in these two areas was 2908 narwhals (CV=0.30; 95% CI:1639-5168) estimated in 2017 for the Greenland Sea and 2297 (0.38; 1123-4745) and 1395 (0.33; 744-2641) narwhals were estimated for Dove Bay in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both abundance and distribution range of narwhals in Southeast Greenland, where narwhals are subject to subsistence harvest, has decreased significantly between 2008-2017 and narwhals have even disappeared at the southernmost area since the first surveys in 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1294262
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Aerial survey
  • Hidden-Markov models
  • Over-exploitation
  • Narwhal
  • Abundance
  • Arctic

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