Research Brief: 2023 Acoustic Survey for Cetaceans in Behm Canal and Southern Clarence Strait, Alaska
The research will be based off of the charter vessel Alaskan Song. The overall research objectives are to conduct visual and acoustic surveys for marine mammals, primarily cetaceans, to estimate density and abundance in this area.
Who is conducting the research?
Scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Division, Auke Bay Laboratory, and Alaska Region, with colleagues from the University of Washington, on the charter vessel Alaskan Song. This is a joint project conducted by NOAA and the U.S. Navy.
What is the research objective?
The overall research objectives are to conduct visual and acoustic surveys for marine mammals, primarily cetaceans, to estimate density and abundance in this area. Photographs of key species (for example, humpback and killer whales) will be collected when practicable for purposes of stock identification and abundance estimation. Incidental sightings of pinnipeds and sea otters will also be documented. Biopsy and water samples (for eDNA analysis) will be collected opportunistically and sonobuoys will be deployed to detect rare and cryptic cetacean species.
Where is the research being conducted?
The survey will occur in Behm Canal and southern Clarence Strait, Alaska.
Why are the data important? How will data be used?
These data will contribute to information needed for compliance with environmental assessment requirements for a U.S. Navy operational area in Behm Canal. Prior NMFS surveys in this region were focused during the summer so are not informative for densities of marine mammals that occur in the spring. In addition, this survey provides an opportunity to collect eDNA and potentially biopsy samples of key cetacean species to better understand which stocks occur in this area. Harbor porpoise eDNA samples are of particular interest, as this area has not been sampled previously.