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.
Biotic Ecosystem Components - data from 2013
Among the baleen whales that frequent the Barents Sea on a seasonal basis, the minke whale is the most numerous. Recent estimates suggest that the population is quite stable (Solvang et al., 2015), although minor variations do occur in both distribution and point estimates. The most recent point estimate for minke whale abundance in the total area is numerically lower than previous estimates, but not significantly different from estimates based on the two preceding
Small cetaceans that frequent the Barents Sea include bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, white-sided dolphins and white-beaked dolphins. All but the latter occur in the southern Barents Sea, particularly along the shelf break and over oceanic banks and ridges, but must be considered vagrants in the region. White-beaked dolphins are the only small cetacean species that routinely occupies the region more broadly.
Hooded seals form one stock in the Northwest Atlantic and another in the Northeast Atlantic; although, recent genetic studies suggest no biological distinction between the groups (Coltman et al., 2007). In the Northeast Atlantic, whelping takes place in mid-late March in the West Ice, not far from where the West-Ice harp seals give birth. Between breeding and the moult, hooded seals carry out feeding excursions to the continental shelf edge off the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland and to areas in the Norwegian Sea.
Fin whales and humpback whales are the second and third most abundant baleen whales in the Barents Sea, respectively. Both are fast-swimming, migratory species that over-winter in the south and occupy the Barents Sea during the productive summer months. The summer activity of these whales is dominated by feeding and during most of the winter; they are thought to fast while they are breeding. In the Barents Sea, fin whales generally inhabit deeper areas along
Numbers of seabirds breeding in the Barents Sea Region have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. A recent assessment of population status and trends has been conducted, based on monitoring and census date for several species breeding in the western part of the Barents Sea (i.e., Norwegian mainland and Svalbard) (Fauchald et al., 2015). Resulting analyses indicate that breeding populations of subarctic pelagic auk species (common guillemot Uria aalge, razorbill
Among the toothed whales, the long-finned pilot whale, sperm whale, the northern bottlenose whale, and killer whales are summer visitors to the Barents Sea. The Northeast Atlantic population of long-finned pilot whales number some 780,000 individuals (NAMMCO 1998), but only a very small (and unknown) part of this population enters the Barents Sea. Few sightings have been made in areas covered by IMR surveys; these sightings are insufficient to estimate
Blue whales are also summer residents in the Barents Sea. They probably number 600-1,500 individuals in the North Atlantic. In recent years, this species has been sighted frequently in Svalbard waters, up the west coast at the shelf edge as well as north of Spitsbergen. Similar to the fin whale, it also enters deeply into Svalbard fjords. It is sighted from early summer until late fall, and appears to be extending is seasonal presence in the northern Barents Sea
(NPI Marine Mammal Sighting Data Base).
Future higher temperatures in the Norwegian Arctic, including the Barents Sea, will likely cause several pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) to extend their distributions northward (Tryland et al., 2009). The prevalence and abundance of pathogens may also change. Such a change in distribution of pathogens may have several consequences for both wild and domesticated animals, which are difficult to predict due to a lack of data.
Killer whales occur in all world oceans and most seas, but their relative scarcity and sporadic occurrence make them difficult to census in the Barents Region. Photo-identification techniques have been used to recognise >400 individuals in northern Norway. Coastal killer whales are tightly linked to the availability of herring. During winter, killer whales aggregate in and around Vestfjorden in Lofoten, foraging on over-wintering herring.