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Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 2024: AFSC/MML: Eastern Bering Sea Beluga Whale Aerial Surveys, 1992-1995, 1999-2000,

Item Identification

Title: AFSC/MML: Eastern Bering Sea Beluga Whale Aerial Surveys, 1992-1995, 1999-2000
Short Name: Eastern Bering Sea Beluga Whale Aerial Surveys
Status: Completed
Creation Date: 2022

In 1992-95 and 1999-2000, the U.S. Government provided funds for the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee (ABWC) to conduct studies of belugas in Alaska. Part of the ABWC research program consisted of aerial surveys of western Alaska beluga stocks, including the Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) stock. In 1992, several aerial surveys were conducted during three periods: 27-29 May, 17-21 June, and 18-22 September to assess the distribution of belugas during those periods. The surveys found relatively few belugas in May and September, but a large number of belugas in June. Based on those results, surveys in subsequent years were conducted only in June: 14-18 June 1993, 11-16 June 1994, 5-8 and 20-22 June 1995, 15-17 June 1999, and 17-20 June 2000. This dataset contains aerial survey data from the surveys described above.


Prior to 1992, there was little information on the distribution of EBS belugas beyond the knowledge of the traditional Alaska Native hunting areas, and places where belugas were seen on an opportunistic basis. There had been no systematic surveys of belugas in the Norton Sound/Yukon Delta region, and there were no reliable estimates of historical population size. It was known that belugas occurred throughout the coastal zone of the northeastern Bering Sea, particularly from the mouth of the Yukon River to northern Norton Sound near Nome, and few were seen far from the shoreline. Belugas were seen predominantly during ice-free months, which was usually mid-May after the breakup of sea ice until freezeup in November. The goals of the ABWC research programs aerial surveys were to estimate the abundance and trends of the EBS stock of belugas and to compare those results with previous beluga information for this area.

Supplemental Information:

Funding was provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants NA27FX0258-01, NA37FX0267, NA47FX0498 and NA57FX0368 to the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee.


Theme Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
ISO 19115 Topic Category
ISO 19115 Topic Category
None abundance
None aerial
None Alaska
None Beluga whale
None Bristol Bay
None cetacean
None Delphinapterus leucas
None distribution
None habitat
None line transect survey
None marine mammal
None strip transect survey

Temporal Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
None Summer

Spatial Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
None Norton Sound

Physical Location

Organization: National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Data Set Information

Data Set Scope Code: Data Set
Maintenance Frequency: None Planned
Data Presentation Form: Table (digital)
Distribution Liability:

The user is responsible for the results of any application of this data for other than its intended purpose. NOAA denies liability if the data are misused.

Support Roles

Data Steward

CC ID: 1186292
Date Effective From: 2022
Date Effective To:
Contact (Person): Ferguson, Megan
Email Address:


CC ID: 1187043
Date Effective From: 2022
Date Effective To:
Contact (Organization): National Centers for Environmental Information - Silver Spring, Maryland (NCEI-MD)
Address: NOAA/NESDIS E/OC SSMC3, 4th Floor, 1351 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282
Phone: (301) 713-3277

Metadata Contact

CC ID: 1195238
Date Effective From: 2022
Date Effective To:
Contact (Person): Waite, Janice
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way, NE
Seattle, WA 98115-6349
Email Address:
Phone: 206-526-6554

Point of Contact

CC ID: 1186309
Date Effective From: 2022
Date Effective To:
Contact (Person): Angliss, Robyn
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way, NE
Seattle, WA 98115-6349
Email Address:
Phone: 206-526-4032
Fax: 206-526-6615


Extent Group 1

Extent Group 1 / Geographic Area 1

CC ID: 1186295
W° Bound: -166.3412
E° Bound: -156.6493
N° Bound: 66.367
S° Bound: 58.382

Norton Sound and Bristol Bay

Extent Group 1 / Time Frame 1

CC ID: 1186310
Time Frame Type: Range
Start: 1992
End: 2000

1992-1995, 1999-2000

Access Information

Security Class: Unclassified
Data Access Policy:

Data is available at

Data Access Constraints:

There are no legal restrictions on access to the data. They reside in public domain and can be freely distributed.

Data Use Constraints:

Users must read and fully comprehend the metadata prior to use. Applications or inferences derived from the data should be carefully considered for accuracy. These data undergo periodic updates as new data become available or existing data are edited for accuracy and consistency. To ensure that users have the most current version and to prevent duplication of, and encourage more efficient coordination with, any ongoing analyses, please contact Dr Megan Ferguson ( if there is an intention to use these data in a scientific report, whether published or not. Credit should always be given for any use of these data; please ask Dr Ferguson for the appropriate credits relative to the intended use. These data should be acquired from either National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) or MML and not through other sources that might not have the most recent version.

Distribution Information

Distribution 1

CC ID: 1187042
Start Date: 2022
End Date: Present
Distributor: National Centers for Environmental Information - Silver Spring, Maryland (NCEI-MD) (2022 - Present)
File Name: EBS beluga aerial survey data_1992-2000.xlsx

Aerial survey data for beluga Aerial Surveys in Norton Sound

File Type (Deprecated): XLS, Microsoft Excel worksheet
Distribution Format: XLS - Microsoft Excel



CC ID: 1198471
Name: Development of an abundance estimate for the eastern Bering Sea stock of beluga1 whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
URL Type:
Online Resource

Publication describing the aerial surveys


CC ID: 1203045
Name: Data archival website
URL Type:
Online Resource

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information data archival site

Technical Environment


Excel Spreadsheet

Data Quality


Accuracy issues are included in relevant attribute section.

Completeness Report:

Metadata for these data were not compiled at the time of the surveys, and the data existed in various forms in multiple locations. In 2022, an effort was made to pull all the data together, standardize attribute values, minimize inconsistencies, and/or correct errors, and create metadata to improve the database for future analyses. Most of the people who worked on the project and analyzed the data were either retired or deceased by 2022; for this reason, some of the values in the data fields remain undefined. For more information about this review and details of the edits that were made to the data, see contact the data steward about the EBS Beluga 1992-2000_Final files, data review, & edits document. There were survey flights flown for this survey, for which survey data do not exist. The International Whaling Commission report, Lowry, L.F., D.P. DeMaster, K.J. Frost. 1999. Alaska Beluga Whale Committee surveys of beluga whales in the Eastern Bering Sea, 1992-1995. Rep. Int. Whal. Commn. SC/51/SM34, gives detail that a survey flight was flown on 29 May 1992; however, survey data for that day are missing. Table 1 of Lowry et al. (1999) indicates that no belugas were sighted on that day. The document, NSsurveysJune95.DOC details that a flight was also flown on 9 June 1995, but there are no data for this flight. The report indicates the flight was all fog and there was no survey effort: Took off from Nome in the fog and flew about 30 miles to the south on top. The whole Sound was covered with a layer of fog about 1000 feet thick. Returned to Nome then to Fairbanks. Lowry et al. 1999 indicates that fog prevented surveys on 21 June 1995, and there are no data for this day. However, NSsurveysJune95.DOC details that there was a flight, but survey effort was not possible: Took off from Nome in the fog and flew 20 miles to the south on top. The whole Sound was covered with a layer of fog. Returned to Nome.

Data Management

Have Resources for Management of these Data Been Identified?: No
Approximate Percentage of Budget for these Data Devoted to Data Management: Unknown
Do these Data Comply with the Data Access Directive?: Yes
Is Access to the Data Limited Based on an Approved Waiver?: No
Approximate Delay Between Data Collection and Dissemination: Unknown
Actual or Planned Long-Term Data Archive Location: NCEI-MD
Approximate Delay Between Data Collection and Archiving: Unknown
How Will the Data Be Protected from Accidental or Malicious Modification or Deletion Prior to Receipt by the Archive?:

IT Security and Contingency Plan for the system establishes procedures and applies to the functions, operations, and resources necessary to recover and restore data as hosted in the Western Regional Support Center in Seattle, Washington, following a disruption.


Lineage Statement:

The survey was designed to cover coastal and offshore waters of Norton Sound and the Yukon Delta. Coastal transects were parallel to the shoreline with the centerline of the aircraft approximately 0.9 km offshore. Offshore transects were flown east to west along lines of latitude, north to south along lines of longitude, or on diagonals when travelling to and from airports. An adaptive sampling design was used in 1992 to 1995 to increase survey effort in areas where belugas had been sighted. When the belugas were seen on an offshore transect, additional parallel transects were flown at a 3.6-9.3 km spacing on both sides of the original line. Parallel transects were continued as long as belugas were seen, and usually stopped after two transects if there were no sightings. In 1999 and 2000, the survey was designed to cover all of Norton Sound and the Yukon River mouth with east to west transects regularly spaced at 9.3 km intervals. The total length of survey transects flown during each survey period was limited by the aircraft time available. The completion of transects was sometimes limited by weather conditions, particularly fog or high winds, and in June 1999 ice cover was a factor. The survey aircraft was a high-wing, twin-engine Aero Commander equipped with bubble windows, based in Nome. The crew included the pilot, a data recorder in the right front seat, and two observers seated behind the pilot on the left and right sides of the aircraft. Survey altitude was usually 305m, and ground speed was 274 km/hr (150 knots) in 1992 and 220 km/hr (120 knots) in all other years except some transit lines were flown at 274 km/hr in 1994. Navigation was done by reference to landmarks and with a Global Positioning System. The survey was done in passing mode, where whales were counted while staying on effort on the trackline. On the coastal transects, all belugas visible along the survey track were counted. The 1992 surveys were conducted as strip transect surveys; for the offshore transects, observers counted whales within 915 m wide strips on each side of the aircraft. The strips were offset 305 m from the centerline to eliminate the blind spot under the plane. The 1993 to 95 and 1999 to 2000 surveys were conducted as line transect surveys; the offshore transects on each side of the aircraft were divided into seven zones and each beluga sighting was recorded in one of the zones. Inclinometers were used to delineate the inner and outer bounds of zones from 0 to 51 deg. In 1992 and 1993, sightings and other data were recorded on datasheets by observers in one-minute intervals and were then entered into a computer database. In 1994 to“1995 and 1999 to 2000, a computer-based data entry program was used, logging the locations and times for the beginning and end of transects, the position on transect every 1 minute, and the exact time and position of each sighting. Environmental data and sighting conditions were also recorded. Data fields with S at the beginning of the field title (e.g., SOBSNUM, SGROUPSIZ) indicate sighting-related fields. Data fields with W at the beginning of the field title (WCLOUD, WBEAUSTAT, etc.) indicate weather-related fields.


No citation at this time

CC ID: 1195237
Contact Role Type: Originator
Contact Type: Organization
Contact Name: AFSC Marine Mammal Laboratory

Process Steps

Process Step 1

CC ID: 1187041


Child Items

Rubric scores updated every 15m

Rubric Score Type Title
Entity EBS beluga aerial survey data_1992-2000.xlsx

Catalog Details

Catalog Item ID: 67735
GUID: gov.noaa.nmfs.inport:67735
Metadata Record Created By: Janice Waite
Metadata Record Created: 2022-08-19 19:18+0000
Metadata Record Last Modified By: SysAdmin InPortAdmin
Metadata Record Last Modified: 2023-10-17 16:12+0000
Metadata Record Published: 2022-11-28
Owner Org: AFSC
Metadata Publication Status: Published Externally
Do Not Publish?: N
Metadata Last Review Date: 2022-11-28
Metadata Review Frequency: 1 Year
Metadata Next Review Date: 2023-11-28