Aarhus Universitets segl

No. 45: Seabird colonies in the Melville Bay, Northwest Greenland

Boertmann, D. & Huffeldt, N.P. 2012. Seabird colonies in the Melville Bay, Northwest Greenland. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 34 pp. Scientific Report from DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 45 http://www.dmu.dk/Pub/SR45.pdf



In the period 1-16 August the southern and central part of Melville Bay was surveyed for seabird breeding colonies. Bad weather prevented searching the northern part. The survey period was late in relation to breeding seabird, as their breeding season is close to an end and many chicks are fledged. However, it was demanded by the usually very late clearance of sea ice in the coastal parts of the bay.

The observation platform and means of transportation was a 43 feet sailboat (Figure 1). The Melville Bay has never been surveyed for breeding seabirds before due to the remoteness and the expectation that there are very few breeding seabirds. However, oil exploration in Baffin Bay has made seabird knowledge needed as background data for many purposes in that context: Oil spill sensitivity mapping, input to oil spill countermeasure strategies, authority regulation of the activities, preparation (by the license holders) of environmental impact assessments of the activities and of net environmental benefit analysis.

The survey showed, that compared to other coasts of West Greenland, the Melville Bay holds a relatively low density of breeding colonies and the numbers of breeding seabirds are low. The most widespread and numerous species is the black guillemot followed by the glaucous gull. However, one colony is of national significance – Sabine Øer, with high numbers of breeding Arctic terns and Sabine’s gulls – the largest colony of this species in Greenland. Other noteworthy observations were puffins on Thom Ø and seven new Iceland gull colonies that extended the known northern breeding limit in Greenland by approx. 240 km towards north.