Skip to main content

NOAA: Arctic: Unprecedented numbers of gray whale calves sighted by scientists so far this season

August 2, 2012
NOAA's aerial surveys of arctic marine mammals.
NOAA scientists participating in the annual Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project say they have seen an unprecedented number of gray whale calves so far this year.

More than 50 calves have been sighted in just the first month of the survey. Even though some of the calves are undoubtedly repeat sightings, the total number is far higher than normal.

The ASAMM project kicked off about a month ago from Barrow, Alaska, with additional effort based out of Deadhorse beginning mid-July. It covers a massive study area in the Alaskan Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

The goal of the surveys is to document the distribution and relative abundance of bowhead, gray, right, and fin whales, belugas, and other marine mammals in areas of potential oil and natural gas exploration, development, and production activities in the Alaskan Arctic. The research is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

The arctic marine mammal survey team spotted this gray whale cow-calf pair in the Chukchi Sea July 14, 2012. Photo by Cynthia Christman, NOAA. NMFS Permit No. 14245.
NOAA scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center's National Marine Mammal Laboratory will be conducting almost daily flights through October, weather permitting. Survey conditions are sometimes less than optimal in the Arctic but, despite the usual episodes of fog and low cloud ceilings, the survey teams have had much success so far and excellent data have been collected.

Other highlights so far include sightings of bowhead whales in both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, with five bowhead whale cow-calf pairs in the western Beaufort Sea; several large groups of belugas seen near Kasegaluk Lagoon passes and offshore in slope areas of the western Beaufort Sea; one minke whale sighted near Cape Lisburne; and one feeding humpback whale near Wainwright.

The public can find near real-time updates on the surveys via daily reports that are being posted to the NMML website.

The survey team also assisted the U.S. Geological Survey walrus satellite tag team with finding large groups of walrus on ice that were suitable for tagging, and they are providing the National Sea Ice Center and U.S. Coast Guard with geo-referenced photographs of sea ice—just a couple of ways the project demonstrates good stewardship of taxpayer dollars as federal agencies work collaboratively to gather needed data with overlapping resources.

The ASAMM study collaborates with several other federal, state and local agencies and universities by sharing field resources, data, or information. Those agencies and organizations include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Coast Guard, North Slope Borough, Duke University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and other entities conducting research in the Arctic.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit or

More >

Popular posts from this blog

Crabbers get a boost in bairdi Tanner quotas

LAINE WELCH Image via Wikipedia FISHERIES Published: November 7th, 2009 10:10 PM Last Modified: November 7th, 2009 10:12 PM KODIAK -- Kodiak and Alaska Peninsula crabbers got some good news last week -- bigger catch quotas for bairdi Tanner crab, a mid-January fishery important to local economies. Bairdi are the larger cousins of the better-known opilio Tanners, or snow crab. The bairdi boost stems from a big pulse of new crab recruits that biologists have been tracking for years. "That is what's fueling the increase in the harvest this year. We're just getting the very beginning of that year class," said.........

F/V Northern Leader. Launch. January 26, 2013 (video)

EXTRA :  Wave of new vessels will boost Alaska, Washington shipyards MOLLY DISCHNER, ALASKA JOURNAL OF COMMERCE Jan 24, 2013 - 10:53 AM AKST Alaska’s fishing fleets are aging, but new vessels are making their way onto the water. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, 1,646 fishing vessels participated in federal fisheries offshore from Alaska in 2010. The majority — more than 900 — were built in the 1970s and 1980s. The first new vessels operating in Alaska waters will be longliners fishing in the Bering Sea with Alaskan Leader Fisheries’ Northern Leader and Alaska Longline Co.’s Arctic Prowler scheduled to start fishing this spring. Alaskan Leader Fisheries is jointly owned by the Alaska Leader Group of Lynden, Wash., and Dillingham-based Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. BBEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota, or CDQ, groups that receive a 10 percent annual share of the Bering Sea harvests. Petersburg-based Alaska Longline Co. al

Tender "Lonestar" rolls over in the Mouth of the Igushik River (fishery closed)

The Tender "Lonestar" has Capsized in the Mouth of the Igushik River 2:00 PM SUN JUNE 30, 2013 By MIKE MASON A large vessel, used to transport sockeye salmon from the fishing grounds to a processing facility, has capsized in the mouth of one of the major salmon producing rivers in Bristol Bay. KDLG’s Mike Mason has the details.... SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013 Trouble in Bristol Bay The Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down the local setnet fishery after a salmon tender, the Lonestar, sank this morning in the mouth of the Igushik River....... Coast Guard responding to partially submerged vessel near Dillingham, Alaska Date: June 30, 2013 District 17 Public Affairs Detachment Kodiak KODIAK, Alaska — The Coast Guard is responding to the sinking of a fishing vessel near the mouth of the Igushik River, Sunday. The Coast Guard is de