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Marine mammal aerial surveys in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas 1979-2010
Contact: Ferguson, Megan
Availability: This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Data from aerial surveys in the western Beaufort Sea to document bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) during their fall migration, conducted each year since 1979. more
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), formerly the Minerals Management Service (MMS), and its precursor, the Bureau of Land Management, have funded aerial surveys in the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering Seas since 1979. In 2008, through an Inter-Agency Agreement between BOEMRE and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NMML assumed full responsibility for these surveys. Consistent survey protocol has been in effect on surveys conducted since 1982. Aerial surveys in the western Beaufort Sea (south of 72 degrees N, 140-157 degrees W) have been conducted each year since 1979. MMS (now BOEMRE) personnel and contractors conducted the surveys from 1979-2007. From 2008-2010, the surveys were conducted by NMML. The goal of the project, also known as the Bowhead Whale Aerial Survey Project (BWASP), was to document bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) during their fall migration through the western Beaufort Sea, although data were also collected for all other marine mammals that were sighted during the surveys. The surveys were typically conducted during the open water (i.e., ice-free) months of September and October, when offshore drilling and geophysical exploration are feasible and when the fall subsistence hunt for bowhead whales takes place near Kaktovik, Cross Island (village of Nuiqsut), and Barrow, Alaska. Additional surveys were conducted in the Beaufort Sea during spring and summer 1979-1986. The emphasis of fall surveys in the Beaufort Sea was to conduct broad-scale surveys to assess shifts in the migration pathway of bowhead whales, and to coordinate effort and manage data necessary to support seasonal offshore drilling and seismic exploration regulations. The selection of survey blocks to be flown on a given day was nonrandom, based primarily on criteria such as observed and predicted weather conditions over the study area and offshore oil industry activities. Otherwise, the project attempted to distribute effort fairly evenly east-to-west across the entire study area. Aerial coverage favored inshore survey blocks because bowheads were rarely sighted north of these blocks during surveys conducted from 1979-1986. Aerial surveys in the northeastern Chukchi Sea (68-73 degrees N, 157-169 degrees W) were conducted by MMS (now BOEMRE) contractors from 1982-1991. From 2008-2010, the surveys were conducted by NMML using similar methodology to the surveys conducted in previous years. The goal of the surveys, now known as the Chukchi Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA) marine mammal aerial survey project, was to investigate the distribution and relative abundance of marine mammals in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area (CSPA) during the open water (i.e., ice-free) months of June to October, when various species are undertaking seasonal migrations through the area. However, from 1979-1984, surveys were also conducted during spring. Aerial surveys in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas (63-68 degrees N, east of the International Date Line) were conducted by MMS (now BOEMRE) contractors from 1979-1985. The goal of these surveys was to investigate the distribution, abundance, migration timing, habitat relationships and behavior of endangered whales during the spring migration. Surveys were conducted from April-July. This database contains aerial survey data from the surveys described above.
Biology > Mammals
Marine, IN, Bering Sea, PNW, Beaufort Sea, Cetacea
23 April 1979 - 25 October 2010
OBIS-SEAMAP: Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations, more
Dataset status: Completed
Data type: Data
Data origin: Monitoring: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2012-11-13
Information last updated: 2013-04-25