'Jaw-dropping' whale survey finds subarctic species in Arctic

Cynthia Christman

A Chukchi Sea aerial gray whale survey in September recorded several other whale species that have not commonly been seen in Arctic waters and one -- killer whales -- that have never been recorded in  30 years of surveying. The scientists working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the Alaska Public Radio Network the sightings indicate Arctic ice retreat in the face of climate change could be creating a "new normal."

September 11th was a standout day for the survey. But the teams documented subarctic species on a handful of other flights as well. Megan Ferguson is a marine ecologist with NOAA and is project coordinator for the survey. She says it’s notable that several of the subarctic species were seen feeding in the Chukchi sea:

 “That means that they’re using the resource. They’re getting nutrition from the environment in that area.”

And Ferguson says it was also surprising to see some calves. It’s more evidence that the Arctic waters are being used as habitat:

“It means it is not just the adults, who are more burly, in coming up there. They’re taking their kids up there. So it leads me to think there’s a reason they’re coming further north.”

Read more from APRN: Researchers describe 'jaw-dropping' whale survey near Point Hope