How are the Whales Responding to Fewer Tourists in the Waters off Juneau, AK: Summer Survey is Underway to Learn More - Post 2

July 21, 2020

Scientists hope to establish a baseline estimate of humpback whale abundance in waters around Juneau, AK and learn more about the impacts of human activities on the whales.

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“Flame”, a well known local whale. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

This is a collaborative effort with the University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Fairbanks, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office, and Alaska Fisheries Science Center/Auke Bay Laboratories.

July 21, 2020

Our first day on the water. It wasn’t easy to get here. Doing field work during a pandemic requires extra preparation. We need to prove that we can keep everyone safe and healthy. This means masks, doing our best to stay 6 feet apart, keeping the crew size to a minimum, checking for fever, sanitizing the boat, etc. A lot of extra work on top of the normal routine. I have a lot more sympathy for people who are wearing masks all day for their jobs. This is my first 8 hour stint with a mask, not terrible, but it took some getting use too, some minor fogging of the glasses issues.

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Photo: NOAA Fisheries

We got 5 biopsies and a sloughed skin sample today. When whales breach (jump out of the water) they shed some of their skin. It floats to the surface where we can scoop it up with a net. Although not as good as a biopsy for hormone analysis, there is still a lot of information in the sample (i.e. the sex of the animal, genetics, information on diet). A great start to the project.

Flame_Juneau-Summer-Whale-Survey_2020_NMFS-JRM-20180517-1-065c.JPG

“Flame”, a well known local whale. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Later in the day we find “Flame”, another well known local whale, and her calf. Flame is feeding on a huge school of Pacific herring. A good sign there is lots of food around this year.

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Fat Pacific herring, great food for humpbacks. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

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