We modeled the habitat selection and movement behavior of juvenile bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) tagged with satellite transmitters in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas during 2014–2018, a period of rapid decline in seaice cover. We compared our results to an earlier study of juvenile bearded seals tagged in the Chukchi Sea during 2004–2009, a period of relatively stable sea ice coverage, and found differences. Seals in the earlier period strongly selectedhabitat near the ice edge and intermediate ice concentrations (50–60%) in both winter and spring. Seals in the later period strongly selected habitat away from the ice edge, showed no selection for any ice concentration in winter, and weaklyselected low ice concentrations in spring (< 50%). The likely explanation for these differences is changes in sea ice habitat because the shift away from the ice edge corresponds with a shift in the distribution of intermediate ice concentrationsthat seals prefer. During the later period, seals still used intermediate ice, which occurred farther from the ice edge and was now the average ice concentration available to them, masking any preference for intermediate ice in the habitat selectionmodel. This change in sea ice conditions, although significant, may not currently be detrimental for juvenile bearded seals.
Olnes, J., G. A. Breed, M. L. Druckenmiller, J. J. Citta, J. A. Crawford, A. L. Von Duyke, and L. Quakenbush.
in press. Juvenile bearded seal response to a decade of sea ice change in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Bearded movements, diving, and haul-out behavior in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas:
We provide the most comprehensive description of juvenile bearded seal movement, diving, and haul-out behaviors for the Pacific Arctic, obtained from 24 seals tagged with satellite-linked data recorders along Alaska’s coast from 2014 to
2018. Most seals (19 of 24) made north–south movements with the seasonal extent of sea ice, however, all three seals tagged north of Bering Strait made minimal north–south movements and two seals tagged in the Bering Sea moved north as
sea ice advanced south. All seals primarily occupied shallow coastal waters and areas with intermediate-concentration pack ice or that were near the ice edge. Seals spent half their time near the sea floor. Hauling out occurred less in the winter and
increased during spring and summer, coinciding with the annual molting period. When ice was at its minimum extent, seven seals frequently hauled out on land. Juvenile bearded seals made use of much of the continental shelf in the Bering, Chukchi and
Beaufort Seas, and their use of a broad range of ice concentrations and willingness to haul out on land suggests some resilience to changing sea ice conditions.
Ringed seal seasonal movements, diving, and haul-out behavior in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.
We deployed satellite transmitters on ringed seals in the summers of 2011, 2014, and 2016 near Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, to monitor their movements, diving, and haul‐out behavior. Seals mostly ranged north of Utqiaġvik in the Beaufort
and Chukchi Seas during summer before moving into the southern Chukchi and Bering Seas during winter. In all seasons, ringed seals occupied a diversity of habitats and spatial distributions, from near shore and localized, to far offshore and
wide‐ranging in drifting sea ice. Continental shelf waters were occupied for >96% of tracking days, during which repetitive diving (suggestive of foraging) primarily to the seafloor was the most frequent activity. From mid‐summer to early fall, 12
seals made ~1‐week forays off‐shelf to the deep Arctic Basin, most reaching the retreating pack‐ice, where they spent most of their time hauled out. Diel activity patterns suggested greater allocation of foraging efforts to midday hours. Haul‐out
patterns were complementary, occurring mostly at night until April‐May when midday hours were preferred. Ringed seals captured in 2011—concurrent with an unusual mortality event that affected all ice‐seal species—differed morphologically
and behaviorally from seals captured in other years. Speculations about the physiology of molting and its role in energetics, habitat use, and behavior are discussed; along with possible evidence of purported ringed seal ecotypes.
Ringed seal dive and haul-out behavior in the Bering and Chukchi seas.
Working with Alaska Native subsistence hunters, we tagged 14 adult and 20 subadult ringed seals with satellite-linked data recorders in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, during late-September and October 2007–2009. We analyzed indices of dive depth,
duration, and rate, and haul-out probability using a model selection framework for adults during fall (late-September–November) and winter (December–March) and for subadults during fall, winter, and also spring (April–June). Where
subadults and adults occurred together, they dove to similar depths; although subadults were commonly located in deeper waters where they generally dove deeper than adults. Both age classes dove longer during winter and subadults tended to make a few
more (~3.5) dives per hour than adults. Both age classes hauled out less and dove deeper, longer, and more frequently during midday than at other times of day. We suspect that seals dive deeper during midday because their prey migrates deeper. Dive
and haul-out behaviors of ringed seals are influenced by a combination of factors, including prey distribution and abundance, sea ice, and seal diving physiology.
A synthesis of multiple Arctic marine mammal distributions and core use areas in the Pacific Arctic.
We collated available satellite telemetry data for six species of ice-associated marine mammals in the Pacific Arctic: ringed seals (Pusa hispida; n=118), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus, n=51), spotted seals (Phoca largha, n=72), Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens, n=389); bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus, n=46), and five Arctic and sub-arctic stocks of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas, n=103). We also included one seasonal resident, eastern North Pacific gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus,n=12). This review summarized the distribution of daily locations from satellite-linked transmitters during two analysis periods, summer (May–November) and winter (December–April), and then examined the overlap among species. Sixmulti-species core use areas were identified during the summer period: 1) Chukotka/Bering Strait; 2) Norton Sound; 3) Kotzebue Sound; 4) the northeastern Chukchi Sea; 5) Mackenzie River Delta/Amundsen Gulf; and 6) Viscount Melville Sound. During thewinter period, we identified four multi-species core use areas: 1) Anadyr Gulf/Strait; 2) central Bering Sea; 3) Nunivak Island; and 4) Bristol Bay. These data are important for understanding ice-associated marine mammal movements and habitat use inthe Pacific Arctic and should be archived, with appropriate metadata, to ensure they are available for future retrospective analyses.
Ringed seal movements and habitat use in the Bering and Chukchi seas.
Movement patterns of 14 subadult and 11 adult ringed seals were monitored in the Bering and Chukchi seas using satellite-linked telemetry. Seals were captured in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, during October 2007 and 2008 and tracked for 17–297
days. Subadult ringed seals traveled south from the Chukchi Sea into the Bering Sea as sea ice coverage increased during November and December, remained ~1,000 km south near the ice edge during winter and returned north in the spring with the
receding ice edge. Adults remained in the Chukchi and northern Bering seas, where their movements were more localized. Adults were on average 322 km farther from the ice edge and 48 km closer to land and shorefast ice than were subadults. During
winter, adult ringed seals construct and maintain breathing holes through the ice, and in spring, females give birth in subnivean lairs, mostly in shorefast ice; adult males defend breeding territories around those lairs. Our results show that
subadult ringed seals, unconstrained by the need to maintain territories that contain stable breeding/pupping habitat, moved south to the Bering Sea ice edge, where there are better feeding opportunities, lower energetic costs (no breathing hole
maintenance), and less exposure to predation.
Movements and Habitat Use of Pacific Arctic Seals and Whales via Satellite Telemetry and Ocean Sensing.
The purpose of this study was to work with Native subsistence hunters and government agencies in Alaska (North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, NSB) and Canada (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO) to cooperatively deploy
satellite transmitters (tags) on three species of ice seals (ringed,
Pusa hispida; bearded, Erignathus barbatus; and spotted seals,
Phoca largha), and two species of whales (beluga, Delphinapterus leucas; and bowhead, Balaena mysticetus). We documented year-round movements and habitat use relative to oceanographic conditions and other factors such as ice cover and
human-related disturbance. Satellite telemetry allowed movements of individual seals and whales to be tracked year-round and provided data for comprehensive analyses of distribution, movement, migration, diving behavior, as well as identified
important feeding, summering, and wintering areas and the oceanographic conditions in those areas. Satellite transmitters used in this project included those that transmit animal locations, dive depth, dive duration, water temperature, and salinity.
All tagging was conducted without interference to subsistence hunting activities.
Quakenbush, L. T., J. J. Citta, J. A. Crawford, A. Bryan, J. Olnes, R. Adam, A. Von Duyke, R. Suydam, S. Okkonen, M. Druckenmiller, G. Breed, and E. Lea. 2020. Movements and Habitat Use of Pacific Arctic Seals and Whales via Satellite Telemetry
and Ocean Sensing. Final Report to Office of Naval Research, Arlington, VA, USA, Award Number: N00014-16-1-3019 91 pp + appendices.
Pinniped movements and foraging: village-based satellite tracking and collection of traditional ecological knowledge regarding ringed and bearded seals.
Four species of seals in Alaska are referred to as “ice-associated seals” or “ice seals” because they use sea ice for some important life history events such as pupping, nursing, molting, and resting. Three of these seals,
bearded (Erignathus barbatus), ringed (Pusa or
Phoca hispida), and spotted seals (Phoca largha) are important subsistence species used by coastal Alaska Natives for food, oil, materials, clothing, and handicrafts. Ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata), the fourth species, areless common in Alaskan waters and used less often by subsistence-based communities. Ice seal summer habitat coincides with areas of interest for oil and gas development and seasonal movements overlap with shipping lanes, therefore information isneeded to better understand ice seal migration routes and feeding areas to plan lease sales, permit exploration and development activities, design shipping lanes, and provide effective mitigation measures. We combined satellite-linked transmittertechnology, traditional and local knowledge and skills of Native subsistence seal hunters to greatly increase our understanding of ringed, bearded, and spotted seal movements and behavior. Objectives for this project from September 2013 to September2019 included: 1) estimating movements and behavior of ice seals (including movements between haulouts and feeding areas) within shipping lanes and the Beaufort and Chukchi seas planning areas; 2) evaluating the effect of changes in ice seal behaviorrelative to changes in sea ice; 3) estimating ice seal use of haulouts by age class and other potential factors; and 4) documenting traditional knowledge of ice seal movements, behavior, and use of habitats. All objectives were successfully met,except for determining use of haulouts by age class for ringed and bearded seals due to low sample size for some age classes. Use of haulouts and haul-out behavior was described for each species but could only be analyzed by age class for spottedseals.
Quakenbush, L. T., J. A. Crawford, M. N. Nelson, J. R. Olnes. 2019. Pinniped movements and foraging: village-based satellite tracking and collection of traditional ecological knowledge regarding ringed and bearded seals. Final Report to U.S.
Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Region, Anchorage, AK., OCS Study BOEM 2019-079. 131 pp + appendices.
Crawford, J., L. Quakenbush, M. Nelson, R. Adam, A. Bryan, J. Citta, A. Von Duyke, and S. Okkonen. 2020. Oceanographic characteristics associated with movements and high-use areas of spotted seals (Phoca largha) in the Chukchi and Bering seas. Alaska Marine Science Symposium. 27–31 January. Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 2,207 kB)
Olnes, J., J. Crawford, and L. Quakenbush. 2020. Movements and haul-out behavior of bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) during minimum ice extent. Alaska Marine Science Symposium. 27–31 January. Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,142 kB)
Crawford, J., L. Quakenbush, M. Nelson, R. Adam, A. Bryan, J. Citta, A. Von Duyke, and S. Okkonen. 2019. Oceanographic characteristics associated with movements and high-use areas of spotted seals (Phoca largha) in the Chukchi and Bering seas. World Marine Mammal Conference. 9–12 December, Barcelona, Spain.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,679 kB)
Crawford, J. A., L. T. Quakenbush, A. Bryan, M. A. Nelson and A. L. Von Duyke. 2019. Seasonal movements and high-use areas of spotted seals (Phoca largha) in the Pacific Arctic. Alaska Marine Science Symposium. 28–31 January. Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,926 kB)
Quakenbush, L. T., S. R. Okkonen, J. J. Citta, J. A. Crawford, A. L. Von Duyke, J. C. George, B. Adams, E. V. Lea, M. A. Nelson and A. Bryan. 2019. Movements and habitat use of Pacific Arctic seals and whales via satellite telemetry and ocean
sensing. Alaska Marine Science Symposium. 28–31 January. Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,451 kB)
Crawford, J. A., M. A. Nelson, L. T. Quakenbush, Anna Bryan, Andrew L. Von Duyke, Merlin Henry, Alexander Niksik, John Goodwin, Alex Whiting, and Matthew Druckenmiller. 2018. Movements and dive behavior of young bearded seals as related to sea
ice in the Pacific Arctic. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, 22–26 January, Anchorage, AK.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 332 kB)
Quakenbush, L. T., S. R. Okkonen, J. J. Citta, J. A. Crawford, M. A. Nelson, A. Bryan, R. Adam and A. L. Von Duyke. 2018. Seal-borne satellite transmitters provide ocean conditions in the Pacific Arctic. Alaska Marine Science Symposium.
22–26 January. Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 929 kB)
Crawford, J. A., M. A. Nelson, L. T. Quakenbush, K. Frost, J. Goodwin, A. Whiting, and M. Druckenmiller. 2017. Seasonal movements, habitat use, and dive behavior of pup and yearling bearded seals in the Pacific Arctic. 22nd Biennial Conference on
the Biology of Marine Mammals. 22–27 October 2017, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,595 kB)
Quakenbush, L., S. Okkonen, J. Citta, J. Crawford, M. Nelson, A. Bryan, and A. Von Duyke. 2017. Seal-borne satellite transmitters provide ocean conditions along seal tracks in the Pacific Arctic. 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine
Mammals. 22–27 October 2017, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 846 kB)
Crawford, J. A., M. A. Nelson, L. T. Quakenbush, A. L. Von Duyke, M. Henry, A. Niksik, A. Simon, J. Goodwin, A. Whiting, K. Frost, J. London, and P. Boveng. 2017. Update of hunter-assisted seal tagging and traditional knowledge studies of Pacific
Arctic seals, 2016 and beyond. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, 23–27 January, Anchorage, AK.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,479 kB)
Nelson, M. A., L. Quakenbush, J. Goodwin, M. Henry, A. Niksik, A. Simon, J. Goodwin, A. Whiting, K. Frost, and J. Crawford. Hunter-assisted study on ringed and bearded seal movements, habitat use, and traditional knowledge. Alaska Marine Science
Symposium, 25–29 January, Anchorage, AK.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 3,154 kB)
Nelson, M. A., L. Quakenbush, J. Goodwin, M. Henry, A. Whiting, K. Frost, and J. Crawford. Hunter-assisted study on ringed and bearded seal movements, habitat use, and traditional knowledge. Alaska Marine Science Symposium, 19–22 January,
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 281 kB)
Crawford, J. A., K. J. Frost, A. Whiting, J. Goodwin, and L. Quakenbush. Seasonal changes in diving behavior of adult and subadult ringed seals (Pusa hispida) in the Bering and Chukchi seas. 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine
Mammals, 27 November–2 December, Tampa, FL.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,070 kB)
Frost, K., J. Crawford, R. Suydam, A. Whiting, L. Quakenbush, and L. Lowry. Using bio-logging to study exposure of western Alaska marine mammals to industrial activities. 4th International Science Symposium on Bio-logging, 14–18 March,
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 1,798 kB)
Crawford, J. A., K. J. Frost, A. Whiting, and J. Goodwin. Different habitat use strategies by subadult and adult ringed seals (Pusa hispida) in the Bering and Chukchi seas. 18th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, 12–16
October, Quebec City, Canada.
(Abstract and poster) (PDF 689 kB)