Underwater Vocalizations as a Tool for Studying the Distribution and Relative Abundance of Wintering Pinnipeds in the High Arctic

  • Ian Stirling
  • Wendy Calvert
  • Holly Cleator
Keywords: Animal distribution, Animal population, Animal vocalizations, Environmental impacts, Marine transportation, Petroleum industry, Seals (Animals), Underwater acoustics, Walruses, Winter ecology, Wildlife habitat, Canadian Arctic Islands waters


Recordings of the underwater vocalizations of ringed seals, bearded seals and walruses were made in the High Arctic between late March and late June 1980 and 1981, to evaluate the potential for using sub-ice vocalizations to study the distribution and relative abundance of wintering pinnipeds. Most of the calls made by these three species are identified and an initial lexicon is presented. Ringed seal vocalizations were more frequent in late April than earlier in the season or in late June, whereas the highest vocalization rates recorded for bearded seals were in late June. Vocalization rates of all three species were indicative of their distribution and relative abundance in different areas and sea ice habitat types. We conclude that underwater vocalizations have the potential for giving more precise information on the relative abundance of wintering pinnipeds than techniques previously used. It may be possible, provided the necessary information on the vocal behaviour of these species is acquired, to use this technique for censusing.

Key words: vocalizations, ringed seal, bearded seal, walrus, distribution