Three recent ice entrapments of Arctic cetaceans in West Greenland and the eastern Canadian High Arctic


  • MP Heide-Jørgensen Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, c/o National Marine Mammal Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
  • P Richard Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 501 University Crescent, Winnipeg R3T 2N6
  • M Ramsay Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon S7N 5E2 (Deceased)
  • S Akeeagok Department of Renewable Resources, Grise Fiord, Nunavut



Monodontids, belugas, Delphinapterus leucas, narwhals, Monodon monoceros, ice entrapments, hunting, predation


Three ice entrapments of Monodontids have been reported in the western North Atlantic since 1993. Hunters in Disko Bay, West Greenland, discovered one in March 1994 that included about 150 narwhals (Monodon monoceros). The entrapment occurred during a sudden cold period which caused ice to form rapidly. The trapped whales were subject to hunting, but about 50 of the killed whales could not be retrieved in the ice. The whales were trapped in a small opening in the ice and because of that they would probably have succumbed even if not discovered by hunters. Two entrapments involving white whales or belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) occurred in the eastern Canadian Arctic in May 1999; one in Lancaster Sound discovered by polar bear (Ursus maritimus) researchers and one in Jones Sound discovered by hunters. The first included one bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) and about 40 belugas that were being preyed upon by polar bears. The second involved at least 170 belugas, of which about 100 were killed by polar bears and 17 were taken by hunters. The entrapments in Disko Bay and Jones Sound both occurred in areas where entrapments have previously been reported, whereas the one in Lancaster Sound was in a new area.




How to Cite

Heide-Jørgensen, M., Richard, P., Ramsay, M., & Akeeagok, S. (2002). Three recent ice entrapments of Arctic cetaceans in West Greenland and the eastern Canadian High Arctic. NAMMCO Scientific Publications, 4, 143–148.