(Jake Neher/ The Arctic Sounder, 16 July 2011) -- Biologist Craig George has an unusual job. He counts whales. It's actually a very complex, dangerous, and important job. Under an international treaty, the United States is a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and must conduct a census every ten years to keep track of the size and trends of the stock of whales being harvested by hunters. That's easier said than done. But after 30 years doing it, George seems to have developed a fairly workable process. It's a three-plus mile snow machine ride out on the sea ice to get to where researchers are busy counting whales. ... As of May 30th, they had spotted nearly 3,400 bowheads. They also possibly saw up to 630 additional whales, but weren't able to determine if they were duplicate sightings. George says that's very close to the all-time record for whales seen in a year. That's good news for researchers, the North Slope Borough, and native whalers, because the census actually failed two years in a row in 2009 and 2010. The last successful count was back in 2001. In addition to the ice-based count out on the perches, they teamed up with the National Marine Fisheries Service to successfully pulled-off an aerial photo survey of the bowhead migration this year. They also placed several audio recording devices in the water to get acoustic data of the migration to help calculate missed whale correction factors. George says all these things will make for a better confidence-level in the final survey estimates.
Posted 17 July 2011; 11:10:04 PM. Permalink
(Dan Joling/Anchorage Daily News, 16 July 2011) -- Polar bears in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast face an uncertain future because of the warming climate. A U.S. and Russia commission aims to address short-term threats.The four-person commission, made up of national and Native representatives from each country, will meet for three days in Moscow starting July 27 to discuss subsistence hunting and other issues for the polar bear population shared by the two countries in the waters north and just south of the Bering Strait. The commission last year set a harvest limit of 58 split between the two sides. A main topic for the meeting will be how each side will make that work, said Eric Regehr, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service biologist who serves on the commission's science advisory board. U.S. commissioners will present a draft harvest management plan proposed to begin the quota Jan. 1, 2013. The commission was created by a treaty signed in 2000 and is significant for representing co-management across countries and cultures, said Rosa Meehan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's marine mammals manager in Alaska. "It's the first effort in Russia that formally recognizes the Native people of Russia and involves them in a governmental process," she said.
Posted 17 July 2011; 10:53:12 PM. Permalink