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The Bowhead Whale Feeding Ecology Study (BOWFEST; Interagency Agreement Minerals Management Service (MMS) 4500000120) was a multiyear MMS-funded study started in 2007 that focused on late summer oceanography and prey densities relative to whale distribution over continental shelf waters within 100 miles north and east of Point Barrow, Alaska. Through NOAA's cooperative institutes and contracts, researchers were included from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Rhode Island, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington, Oregon State University, and the North Slope Borough's Department of Wildlife Management. Field work was coordinated with the North Slope Borough, Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Barrow Whaling Captains' Association, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Department of Interior's MMS.

Aerial surveys conducted by NMML, acoustic monitoring, and boat-based surveys provided information on the spatial and temporal distribution of bowhead whales in the study area. Oceanographic sampling helped identify sources of zooplankton prey available to whales on the shelf and the association of this prey with physical characteristics (hydrography, currents) which may affect mechanisms of plankton aggregation. Results of this research program may help explain summer occurrences of bowheads in the Western Beaufort Sea (U.S. waters), well west of the typical summer feeding aggregations in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Increased understanding of bowhead behavior and distribution is needed to minimize potential impacts from petroleum development activities.

Contracted Reports

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