2016 Copper River Delta Carcass Surveys: Annual Report
NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division (PRD) conducted six survey flights of the shifting sand shoals of the Copper River Delta from May 10 to August 9, 2016. The purpose of the flights was to search for marine mammal carcasses, and, if carcasses were observed, coordinate with the USCG to fly to the carcasses via helicopter to determine the cause of death and conduct necropsies. PRD biologists flew with the USCG following four of the six surveys to collect samples and conduct necropsies from observed marine mammals. At least three Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), one whale, and five harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) carcasses were observed on the survey flights. Six of the eight pinniped carcasses showed evidence that they may have been intentionally killed by humans. In addition, we were able to examine and sample five whale carcasses east of the survey area while we were in Cordova to conduct scheduled surveys of the Delta.