The North Pacific right whale is one of the rarest animals in the Bering Sea. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, only about thirty North Pacific right whales inhabit the eastern Bering Sea. This week, a NOAA researcher was able to find and collect information on not one but two of these whales.
NOAA Fisheries researcher Jessica Crance uses acoustic instruments to listen for whales, finding them by sound. Crance is part of an international team of scientists studying large whales in the Bering Sea this summer. The team set sail from Dutch Harbor in July to conduct the International Whaling Commission’s Pacific Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (POWER) survey.
This is the 8th year of the POWER survey, and the first to use acoustic instruments to listen for whales. NOAA plans to survey the entire Bering Sea over the next three years. Besides the rare North Pacific right whales, the scientists on board will study several other species, including humpback, sperm, and fin whales.
The long-term goal of the POWER surveys is to assess the populations of large whales in the North Pacific, in order to determine what, if any, conservation measures may be necessary. The project is expected to last ten years or more.
Image at top: An extremely rare North Pacific right whale. Photo: John Durban, NOAA, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain.