Photo-Identification of Beluga Whales in Upper Cook Inlet Alaska Annual Reports
Reports on Photo-Identification of Beluga Whales in Upper Cook Inlet, Alaska, Prepared for Chevron, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc., 2007 - 2010
The Cook Inlet beluga whale (CIBW) photo-identification study began in 2005. The objectives of this study were to:
- Assess the feasibility and utility of photo-identification for studying CIBW.
- Build a photo-identification catalog of distinctively marked individuals and describing re-sight rates and discoveries of new individuals over time.
- Describe population characteristics of beluga whales in Upper Cook Inlet, including age-class distribution, residency/movement patterns, behavior, and social group structure.
- Develop abundance estimates of CIBW using mark-recapture models.
- Determine CIBW life history characteristics, such as calving frequency, calving interval, period of maternal care/association, survival rates of calves, and survival rates of identified individuals.
Final Report of Field Activities and Belugas Re-sighted in 2010. This report summarizes field effort during photo-identification surveys from the 2010 field season, and presents results from analyses off photos of whales encountered and identified in 2005-2010, including sighting rates, distribution, movement patterns, group compositions, entanglements and reproductive information.
Final Report of Field Activities and Belugas Re-sighted in 2009. This report summarizes field effort during photo-identification surveys from the 2009 field season. It presents results from analyses of photos of whales encountered and identified in 2005-2009, including sighting rates, distribution, movement patterns, group associations, mortalities, and reproductive information.
Final Report of Mark Analysis Mark-Resight Estimates and Color Analysis from Photographs Taken in 2008. This report is divided into three chapters. Chapter 1 presents results of an analysis of mark types and mark locations seen in photographs of CIBW. Chapter 2 describes the selection and processing of photographs, a suitable mark-resight model, and mark-resight abundance estimates of beluga whales obtained from photographs taken in the summer and fall of 2008. Chapter 3 summarizes techniques and analyses developed in 2008 to quantitatively determine whale color from photographs. The potential to derive demographic indices for the population by using color as a proxy for age-class represents a tool for monitoring the status of this population through changes in age structure.
Final Report of Field Activities in 2008. Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whale population was listed as endangered in October 2008. As a result, critical habitat for the survival and recovery of the population must be designated. Land and vessel-based photo-identification surveys can be used to characterize distribution and movement patterns of individual beluga whales. This can augment critical habitat information from aerial surveys and tagging studies. Photo-identification data describing CIBW residency and movement patterns, habitat use by mothers and calves, and assessment of behavior will aid in the identification of critical habitat, including movement corridors and location of grounds for feeding, calving, and rearing of young.
2007 Annual Report. This report provides results from field effort and analyses conducted from September 2006 through October 2007. We discuss the current status of the photo-identification catalog with respect to the project's original objectives and requirements for continued development of a photo-identification catalog for Cook Inlet beluga whales.