Historical Population Characteristics of Bowhead Whales (Balaena mysticetus) in Hudson Bay

Randall R. Reeves, Susan E. Cosens


Historical records of commercial whalers operating in northwestern Hudson Bay during the 19th century were examined for information on size, age, sex, and location of bowhead whales that were either sighted or killed. Correlations between body size and either oil yield or baleen length were used to estimate the relative age classes (calf, subadult, adult) of whales for which no explicit age-class information was reported in the whaling logbooks. Cow-calf pairs and subadults, as well as adult whales, were sighted or killed throughout the whaling season in the area extending from Wager Bay south to Marble Island. This finding indicates that whales of many different age classes were present south of Wager Bay, even during the open-water period when whaling activity shifted northward to include Repulse Bay and Lyon Inlet. Recent observations suggest that few bowhead whales occur south of Wager Bay during the open-water season and that the population in this area has not recovered from the effects of commercial whaling. It is not clear whether this group of bowheads was a separate stock or, alternatively, waters south from Wager Bay constituted a second calf-rearing area for a single Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin stock.


bowhead whale; Balaena mysticetus; Hudson Bay; Foxe Basin; stock structure

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic624

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