Welcome to the 41st consecutive field season for the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project! Every year since 1979, ASAMM has conducted line-transect aerial surveys off the northern and western coasts of Alaska, in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. A long-term dataset like this is extraordinary because it is both rare and ecologically invaluable. Exact survey dates and boundaries have varied over time, but the study goals, general survey area, and survey methods have remained remarkably similar. This year is particularly noteworthy because ASAMM will be extending its range to include Canadian waters in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf during August to collect data for a new estimate of the abundance of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales. ASAMM is funded and co-managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and conducted and co-managed by the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
Our goals are to examine the distribution, number of animals using certain areas, and behavior of bowhead, gray, humpback, fin, minke, and killer whales, belugas, harbor porpoises, walruses, ice seals, and polar bears. We focus on the Alaskan Arctic, in areas of potential interest to shipping and petroleum exploration, development, and production, and surrounding areas used by marine mammals. Results from this research provide an objective, broad-scale understanding of marine mammal ecology in the Alaskan Arctic that helps inform management decisions.
In 2019, we will have one team based in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, in July, September, and October; one team based in Deadhorse, Alaska, from 18 July – 11 October; one team based in Inuvik, Canada, from 4-28 August; and one team based in Ulukhaktok, Canada, from 6-28 August.
Four decades of research have taught us that every year is different in the Arctic. We’ll post blogs throughout the season so that you can join us on this year’s scientific adventures!