Antarctic Sea Ice Habitat and Minke Whales

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Scheidat, M. , Bornemann, H. , Burkhardt, E. , Flores, H. , Friedlaender, A. , Kock, K. H. , Lehnert, L. , van Franeker, J. and Williams, R. (2008): Antarctic Sea Ice Habitat and Minke Whales , Annual Science Conference in Halifax, 22 - 26 September, Halifax, Canada. .
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In the Southern Ocean, biological production in sea ice is considered to be a major driving force for Antarctic animal population sizes and biodiversity. It is known that sea ice forms an important habitat for the Antarctic minke whale during the summer months when production is high. Sightings of minke whales during the austral winter in the pack ice were considered atypical and it has been thought that Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) only stay in Antarctic waters during the austral summer and spend the winter breeding season in tropical and subtropical waters. However, continuing food availability under the sea ice during the winter months might also enable them to overwinter in the deep pack ice. Data on minke whale occurrence in Antarctic winter months is scarce, due to limited observation effort during this time, as well as due to difficult sighting conditions. This pilot study is a first attempt to compile and analyze existing data in order to investigate the seasonal use of sea ice by minke whales.

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