Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to increase of 25%
Comments: Western arctic (Bering/Chukchi/Beaufort sea) population was increasing at 3.3 percent per year, 1978-2001 (IWC 1997, Shelden et al. 2003). Other, much smaller populations show no sign of increase (IUCN 2000, Finley 2000), although it is difficult to assess trend because of the paucity of sightings. Some populations may not be viable. A nursery aggregation observed in the Foxe Basin (Cosens and Blouw 1999) "is the most promising evidence that the Hudson Bay population is recovering" (Finley 2000).
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Comments: Bowhead numbers were severely reduced by commercial whaling prior to the 20th century, probably on the order of 80 percent. Woodby and Botkin (1993) estimated a minimum total population prior to whaling of about 50,000; this subsequently declined to perhaps 5000 individuals. Western arctic population formerly 10,400-23,000 (Woodby and Botkin 1993), now about 10,000; Hudson Bay population formerly 580 (Woodby and Botkin 1993), now unknown size, but smaller than this (Finley 2000); Davis Strait population >11,700, now "almost certainly less than 5 %" of this number; Spitsbergen population about 24,000, now numbering only in the tens (Woodby and Botkin 1993); Sea of Okhotsk population 3000-6500, now probably in the low hundreds (Mitchell 1977, Ross 1993). Total population thus declined to fewer than 8,000 from roughly 50,000 initially.