Arctic Whale Ecology Study 2015 Annual Report
Through an Inter-Agency agreement (IAA) between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), NMML is conducting a dedicated multi-year study to determine relationships between dominant currents passing from the Bering Sea into and through the Chukchi Sea and prey resources delivered to the Barrow Arch area (an area of high bowhead whale and prey concentrations between Wainwright and Smith Bay), and to provide information about the dynamic nature of those relationships relative to whale distribution and habitat utilization in the eastern Chukchi and extreme western Beaufort Seas. This study will also provide important baseline data on the occurrence, distribution, and habitat use of large whales in an area that is subject to rapid change in climate and human industrial development. This annual report covers work conducted in 2015, the third year of the study.
The major activities during 2015 consisted of planning for and executing the 2015 Arctic Whale Ecology Study (ARCWEST)/Chukchi Acoustics, Oceanography, and Zooplankton Study-extension (CHAOZ-X) cruise, after-season maintenance and testing of the passive acoustic recorders, the processing and analysis of data collected during the 2013 and 2014 cruises, and planning for the final report. The cruise took place on the chartered research vessel F/V Aquila, left Nome, AK on 8 September, and returned to Dutch Harbor, AK on 28 September. Eleven scientists, technicians, and observers from six different laboratories and institutions participated on the ARCWEST cruise. As a result of the work conducted to complete the final report for the Chukchi Acoustics, Oceanography, and Zooplankton Study (CHAOZ), the ARCWEST team has developed the framework of how the ARCWEST data will be integrated to enable multi-disciplinary, synthesis analyses and the programs to run these analyses have been written. The CHAOZ final report will provide important baseline data to which ARCWEST can compare. The acoustics group is also mid-way through implementing a passive acoustics database (Tethys, Roch et al., 2013), as part of a pilot project with NGDC to archive the data and make it publically accessible. Highlights of progress and results to date are listed below by objective, with additional details in the main body of the report.