Coastal marine mammal species in the Barents Sea include harbour seals, grey seals, and the harbour porpoise. Larger whales also migrate along the coast on their way north to the take advantage of the summer burst of productivity in the Barents Sea. The harbour seal is a coastal species that is found both in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Harbour seals are gregarious, hauling out to rest on land at low tide every day of the year, in groups ranging from just a few animals up
The white whale/beluga whale is the most numerous of the three resident ice-associated Arctic whales in the Barents Sea. Similar to the other two high-arctic species, it can be found in high concentrations of drifting ice (>90% ice cover) in areas which are inaccessible to migratory species of whales. Satellite-tracking of white whales in Svalbard during summer and early autumn has shown a profoundly coastal distribution; tracking data from late autumn and early winter suggest that they remain close to these coastal areas, penetrating deep into extensive ice. During summer, they spend most of their time close to tidal glacier fronts in Svalbard or moving between them (Lydersen et al., 2001).
Walruses are distributed across the circumpolar Arctic, but their distribution is discontinuous and two subspecies are recognized: one in the Pacific; and the other in the Atlantic. In the northern Barents Sea, they are found from Svalbard through to Franz Josef Land; in the southern Barents Region, they occur in the Pechora Sea and the Kara Sea. Recently, they have been observed regularly in the White Sea as well (Klepikovsky and Lisovsky, 2005; Svetochev and
White-beaked dolphins are the only dolphin to remain in the Barents Sea Region on a year-round basis. They are found throughout the North Atlantic, primarily in shelf waters, but they canmay also inhabit offshore areas of intermediate depths. During summer, they can be found north to the ice edge. They are commonly sighted in coastal waters around Spitsbergen in summer, as well as in the pelagic parts of the Barents Sea, but are most common in the southern Barents
Bearded seals have a patchy distribution throughout the Arctic, occurring at low densities throughout their range. They are largely solitary, but small groups can be seen during late spring and -early summer, when they are breeding,breed and then moultingmoult/molt, and the sea-ice cover is restrictedlimited. Bearded seals can maintain holes in relatively thin ice, but avoid densely packed ice unless open-water leads are available.
Polar bears have a circumpolar Arctic distribution, which includes the entire northern Barents Sea south to Novaya Zemlya. They are heavily dependent on sea ice for foraging and for travelling to and from terrestrial denning areas; they depend on thick layers of snow in maternity denning areas. They prefer first-year ice that develops over shelf seas for hunting, where ice-associated seals (their primary prey) are most abundant (Derocher et al., 2002).
The bowhead whale is the only baleen whale that resides in the Arctic throughout its life. It is highly adapted to its ice-associated lifestyle, possessing a very thick layer of blubber (up to 30 cm), no dorsal fin, and a complex circulationcirculatory system (with numerous vascular retes) for conservingadaptations) to conserve heat. Moreover, their highly elevated blow-holesblowholes are thought to be an adaptation tofor breathing inwithin the cracks in sea ice.
Ringed seals occur throughout the Arctic. They are the only northern seal that can maintain breathing holes in thick sea ice and thus are distributed well beyond the range of the other northern true seals – north to the Pole (Heide-Jørgensen and Lydersen, 1998; Gorbunov and Belikov, 2008). They are extremely dependent on sea ice, which is their exclusive breeding and haul-out platform. Typically, they prefer land-fast ice in fjords and along coastlines, with reasonably thick
Harp seals are migratory and have a much wider distribution range than ringed seals, bearded seals, and walruses; they also have a more pelagic life history (Lavigne and Kovacs, 1988; Haug et al., 1994a). Three different populations inhabit the North Atlantic: the Northwest Atlantic population off Canada’s east coast; the Greenland Sea (West-Ice) population which breeds and moults just north of Jan Mayen; and the East-Ice population which congregate in the White Sea to breed.
Narwhal inhabit the North Atlantic Ocean sector on both sides of Greenland and the archipelagos of, as well as Svalbard and Frans Josef Land archipelagos. They also occupy some waters north of Canada and Russia; they are very rare in the Pacific Arctic. Similar to their close relative, the white whale, these mid-sized odontocetes liveremain in social group (pods) throughout their lives, often in association with sea ice. They are deep divers that feed on arcticArctic cod, polar cod,