Arctic Whale Ecology Study July 2016 Quarterly Report
Through an Inter-Agency agreement (IAA) between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), MML 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 quarterly report covers work conducted from April through June 2016.
The major activities during this quarter consisted of the processing and analysis of data collected during the 2013, 2014, and 2015 cruises, and continuing the analysis and synthesis work necessary for the final report. Although not part of the original ARCWEST plan, there will be a 2016 cruise for the Arctic Long-Term Integrated Mooring Array (ALTIMA) project, supported by funding from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR, Stabeno) with supplemental funding from BOEM through ARCWEST. Planning for this cruise is near complete. NOAA has contracted with KB Fisheries, Inc. to charter the F/V Aquila for the survey which will leave Nome, AK around 2 September and return to Dutch Harbor, AK around 28 September. This survey will allow us to retrieve and redeploy the biophysical and acoustic moorings which were turned over in 2015, ensuring continuation of our long time series of data begun in 2010 (with some sites beginning in 2007). The passive acoustics and satellite tagging groups have also met Public Access of Research Results (PARR) requirement deadlines, and the oceanographic and zooplankton groups are working to meet these deadlines. Highlights of progress and results to date are listed below by objective, with additional details in the main body of the report.