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Bowhead Whale Research
Satellite Tracking of Western Arctic Bowhead Whales

Most Recent Maps

Map tracking bowhead whale movements between 08/31/2016 – 09/09/2016
The tagged bowhead whale is still on the air. The whale continues to linger in the northeast Chukchi Sea and is located approximately 170 km (105 miles) west of Barrow, Alaska.
Map tracking bowhead whale movements between 08/23/2016 – 09/02/2016
The tagged bowhead whale is still on the air and has continued to move west. Since passing west of Barrow Canyon, the whale has been lingering in the northeast Chukchi Sea and is now located approximately 120 km (75 miles) north of Wainwright, Alaska.

Link to Prior Maps

Animated bowhead movements between May of 2006 and July of 2010. The animation is large and may load slowly (3.3 MB).

Project Overview:

Bowhead whales are the most important subsistence species for coastal and island communities in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. We work with subsistence whalers to attach satellite transmitters to bowheads to study their movements, habitat use, and behavior throughout their range including migration routes and timing, feeding areas, diving behavior, time spent within the spring and summer ranges. We also study how bowhead whales interact with oil and gas activities. We are investigating the use of tags that record oceanographic information to identify ocean features, such as fronts where whales prefer to feed. We are developing an acoustic tag that will record ambient sound and the vocal behavior of the whales to better understand the effects of high noise level activities such as seismic surveys and drilling activity.

This project began in 2006 and is a collaboration among the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Whaling Captain’s Associations of Barrow, Kaktovik, Gambell, and Savoonga, the Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committees, the North Slope Borough, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. The project is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.



  • Citta, J.J., L.T. Quakenbush, S.R. Okkonen, M.L. Druckenmiller, W. Maslowski, J. Clement-Kinney, J.C. George, H. Brower, R.J. Small, C.J. Ashjian, L.A. Harwood and M.P. Heide-Jørgensen. 2014. Ecological characteristics of core areas used by western Arctic bowhead whales, 2006-2012. Progress in Oceanography.
  • Christman, C. L., Citta, J. J., Quakenbush, L.T., Clarke, J. T., Rone, B. K., Shea, R. A., Ferguson, M. C., and M. P. Heide-Jørgensen. 2013. Presence and behavior of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea in July 2011. Polar Biology doi: 10.1007/s00300-013-1395-4.
  • Citta, J. J., J. J. Burns, L. T. Quakenbush, V. Vanek, J. C. George, R. J. Small, M. P. Heide-Jørgensen, and H. Brower. 2013. Potential for bowhead whale entanglement in cod and crab pot gear in the Bering Sea. Marine Mammal Science DOI: 10.1111/mms.12047
  • Citta, J. J., L. T. Quakenbush, J. C. George, R. J. Small, M. P. Heide-Jørgensen, H. Brower, B. Adams, and L. Brower. 2012. Winter movements of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Bering Sea. Arctic 65(1):13-34.
  • Heide-Jørgensen, M. P., K. L. Laidre, L. T. Quakenbush, and J. J. Citta. 2011. The northwest passage opens for bowhead whales. Biology Letters doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0731.
  • Quakenbush, L. T., J. J. Citta, J. C. George, R. J. Small, and M. P. Heide-Jørgensen. 2010. Fall and winter movements of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Chukchi Sea and within a potential petroleum development area. Arctic 63:289-307.

Contact information:
Lori Quakenbush
Arctic Marine Mammal Program
1300 College Road
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Ph: (907) 459-7214
Fax: (907) 452-6410