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brenda rone  

The North Pacific Right Whale Research Cruise scheduled for the month of August in the Gulf of Alaska is designed to locate, photograph, and hopefully satellite-tag a critically endangered North Pacific right whale.

This cruise represents one leg in a four-month Collaborative Large Whale Survey that is being conducted along the west coast by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center aboard the NOAA Fisheries research vessel Reuben Lasker.

Brenda Rone (pictured left) is NOAA Fisheries affiliate and chief scientist on the cruise.

August 27, 2015

Hello All,

During our final days, we finished surveying the offshore stratum. Overall, it was a pretty quiet area. We had humpback whales, sperm whales, and Dall's porpoise. Acoustics continued detecting sperm, fin, blue, humpback and killer whales. We were able to get one final day in Barnabas Trough beginning on Wednesday morning. Acoustics worked tirelessly throughout the night to get coverage of most of the Trough and surrounding area before sunrise. Unfortunately we did not get any right whale detections on this final day. The visual along with the acoustic team surveyed back down the trough documenting numerous humpbacks before the winds picked up to 30 knots. At that point, we turned and headed back toward Kodiak, surveying across Albatross Bank.

Between acoustics and visual, approximately 2,500 nautical miles were surveyed.

Species we identified during the cruise: sightings (individuals):
Blue whales: 13 (13)
Dall's porpoise: 96 (397)
Fin whales: 66 (102)
Humpback whales: 171 (444)
Gray whales: 5 (16)
Harbor porpoise: 2 (3)
Killer whales: 20 (114)
Pacific white-sided dolphins: 5 (140)
Sei whales: 2 (2)
Sperm whales: 28 (46)

Species photographed:
Blue whales: 3
Fin whales: 4
Gray whales: 6
Humpback whales: 8
Killer whales: 9
Sperm whales: 1

Species we heard (we deployed 219 sonobuoys and recorded over 330 hours):
Blue whales
Dall's porpoise
Fin whales
Gray whales
Humpback whales
Killer whales
North Pacific right whales (Barnabas Trough on August 10th, 16th)
Sei whales
Sperm whales

Species Biopsied:
Blue whales: 2
Gray whales: 4

Weather was challenging to say the least during this survey. Alaska always provides what I call "sporty science." Weather system after weather system provided some pretty decent swells for a large chunk of this survey making identification, maneuvering, and maintaining sanity a bit challenging.

refer to caption
The science team of Leg 2 of the North Pacific Right Whale Research Cruise.

The Chief Scientist asked these dedicated observers to stand watch even past marginal conditions when rain, fog, high beaufort and swells were thrown our way all at once. Everyone understood the importance of getting whatever coverage was possible and did it with spectacular grace. I would like to recognize the tireless and enthusiastic efforts of the visual team: Tony Martinez, Kelly Beach, Sergio Martinez, Bernardo Alps, Kelly Cates, Tory Johnson, Amelia Burke, and Bob Pitman.

Having acoustics on board allows us to cover these large areas, even when time is limited. Without acoustics, we would not have documented right whale presence! Our acoustics team was a committed, hardworking and energetic group. I would like to recognize the efforts of their fearless leader, Miss Jessica Crance. She did a phenomenal job training everyone up on the equipment and overseeing operations. Thank you to Nick Tucker, Megan Slack, Kelsey Miller. Your commitment and enthusiasm was incredible even if you were sequestered to the acoustic lab (a.k.a the Ice Box) for a majority of the trip.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Commanding Officer John Crofts and the officers and the crew of the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker. These folks did an amazing job working with us to fulfill our objectives, providing excellent food and keeping us safe. This was one of the best groups I've had the pleasure of working with. I am positive they all wanted to find a right whale just as much as we did! I think it's safe to say we are all looking forward to spending time on steady ground!

All the best,
Brenda


Read more about this important cruise. Listen to a recording of a right whale call. Check out some photos! Check back here for updates on what Brenda and our other scientists see while on the cruise.

 

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