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Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program

Fifth Annual International Whaling Commission POWER Cruise (pg 1, 2)

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Summer 2014
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Sally Mizroch, from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory’s (NMML) Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program (CAEP), participated in the fifth annual Pacific Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (POWER) cruise this summer, from 2 July to 30 August 2014, surveying the vast North Pacific Ocean to study the distribution and abundance of baleen whales in areas where populations were depleted by 20th century commercial whaling. The POWER cruises are a collaboration between the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Government of Japan. Cruise plans and line-transect tracklines have been developed with the participation of the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries (Research Agency of Japan) and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, under the guidance of the IWC-POWER Steering Group established by the IWC Scientific Committee.

POWER cruises have been conducted each year from 2010 through 2014, and plans are underway to continue the surveys at least through 2016. This year’s survey area was the central North Pacific Ocean from 30°N to 40°N latitude, between 170°E and 160°W longitude. A total of 21 people were on board the Yushin Maru No. 3, including cruise leader Koji Matsuoka (Institute of Cetacean Research); researchers Mizroch (CAEP), Isamu Yoshimura (Kyodo Senpaku), and Jess Taylor (IWC); and crew.

During POWER cruises, all baleen whales sighted within 3 nautical miles (nmi) perpendicular distance to the trackline are approached for species confirmation. During these close approaches, all efforts are made to collect biopsy samples if conditions permit.

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Figure 1. (Top) Photo of a Bryde’s whale mother and calf taken from one of three different heights on the ship: a platform above the upper bridge. Photo by Jess Taylor. (Bottom) A map showing the location where the Bryde’s whale mother and calf were photographed, using GPS data in the photos’ EXIF metadata; the photo was uploaded to Flickr and the map is a snapshot of the Flickr screen image.

Directed photo-identification approaches are conducted for priority species, such as blue whales, North Pacific right whales, and humpback whales. However, photo-ID data are collected opportunistically for all baleen whale species approached, including fin whales, sei whales, and Bryde’s whales (Fig. 1). Data are also collected opportunistically for toothed whale species, including sperm whales, beaked whales, killer whales, pilot whales, and any dolphin species that come into view.

With very good weather conditions during the 2014 cruise, survey coverage in the study area was 83.4% of the planned tracklines for a total of 3,233 nmi of trackline surveyed on effort.

Sightings included: blue whales (1 group/1 individual); sei whales (1/1); Bryde’s whales (118/140); sperm whales (78/155); Cuvier’s beaked whales (6/13); unidentified Mesoplodon species of beaked whales (8/19); unidentified Ziphiid species of beaked whales (39/86); killer whales (1/3); southern form of short-finned pilot whales (2/12); Risso’s dolphins (8/140); bottlenose dolphins (3/69); spotted dolphins (6/436); striped dolphins (5/420); and short-beaked common dolphins (4/1,747).

Photo-ID data were sufficient to catalog 1 blue whale, 69 Bryde’s whales, 2 sperm whales (a mother and calf), all the individuals in a pod of 3 killer whales, 1 pilot whale, and 14 Risso’s dolphins.




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