After Thousands of Years, an Iconic Whale Confronts a New Enemy


The iconic tusked whale of the Arctic has a new enemy – noise. 

The iconic tusked whale of the Arctic has a new enemy – noise. A unique study from the University of Copenhagen and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources shows that narwhals are highly affected by noise from ships and seismic airgun pulses – even at 20-30 kilometers away. As ice melts, noise levels in the Arctic are rising, worrying scientists about the future of narwhals.

For millennia, vast expanses of the Arctic Ocean have been untouched by humans, ocean where narwhals and other marine mammals lived undisturbed. Now that climate change is causing sea ice to melt, there has been an uptick of human activity in the Arctic. This has resulted in significantly more noise from an array of human sources, including seismic surveys, mine blasts, port projects and cruise ships.

Although the noise is not violently loud when it comes a from a fair distance, for narwhals, the noise is disturbing and triggers stress – even many kilometers away. These are the results of unique experiments conducted with the iconic whale. The University of Copenhagen has helped the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (Pinngortitaleriffik) to analyse the data collected during the research.”

Read more at University of Copenhagen - Faculty of Science

Image: Narwhal with satellite tag (Credit: Carsten Egevang)