NMML Bering Sea Cetacean Survey 2000

National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Dataset credit

National Marine Mammal Laboratory


Primary contact Janice Waite National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Data entry Kimberly Goetz Duke University



Visual line-transect surveys for cetaceans were conducted in the southeastern Bering Sea (SEBS) from 10 June to 3 July 2000, in association with a pollock stock assessment survey aboard the NOAA ship Miller Freeman. Observers scanned for cetaceans with 25x (Big Eye) binoculars from the flying bridge (platform height = 12 m) at survey speeds of 18.5-22 km h-1 (10-12 knots). Transect survey effort was 2,194 km in 2000, in a study area 158,561 km2. An additional 402 km of trackline was surveyed in 2000 while in transit to or from pollock survey way points. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were the most common large whale, and Dall's porpoises (Phocoenoides dalli) were the most common small cetacean. In the SEBS 2000, uncorrected abundance estimates were: 683 (CV = 0.32) fin whales, 102 (CV = 0.50) humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), 1,003 (CV = 0.26) minke whales, 9,807 (CV = 0.20) Dall's porpoise, and 1,958 (CV = 0.21) harbor porpoise. Non-pollock echosigns observed near cetaceans, some of which may have been cetacean prey, were not routinely identified during trawl sampling because the research focus was on pollock abundance assessment. Clearly, additional surveys and concomitant assessment of cetacean prey are needed to better define their role in the Bering Sea ecosystem. Such surveys, combined with measures of local hydrography and prey field should be the goal of future cetacean assessments.


Cetacean distribution and abundance in the Bering Sea is poorly described, with even recent reviews of cetaceans' role in the ecosystem reliant on data from the commercial whaling era. Commercial harvests of baleen whales (mysticetes) were extensive in the North Pacific and Bering Sea, especially between 1835 and 1850 for North Pacific right whales and between 1965 and 1979 for fin and humpback whales. The effect of these large-scale removals on the marine ecosystem is largely unknown. Similarly, some species of toothed whales (odontocetes) are sometimes killed in the course of commercial fishing operations. Pelagic dolphins and Dall's porpoise were especially vulnerable during high seas driftnet fishing in the North Pacific in the 1980s, and once again the long-term ramifications of these removals are unknown. One reason for this uncertainty is the lack of data on current cetacean distribution and estimates of abundance in pelagic environments. Surveys to determine distribution and abundance are costly and, therefore, often confined either to coastal waters where the logistics are most practical, or to areas of the ocean where marine mammal mortality associated with commercial fishing is particularly high. The pelagic waters of the Bering Sea have not met either criteria and so are comparatively undersampled for cetaceans.

Cruises were undertaken in association with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center/Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (AFSC/RACE) division to conduct visual surveys for cetaceans during the semi-annual acoustic trawl surveys for walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) on the Bering Sea shelf. Biologists from the AFSC/National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) were able to join subsequent surveys in the southeastern Bering Sea (SEBS) in 2000, providing an opportunity to describe cetacean distribution and calculate abundance over a broad area of the Bering Sea shelf.

Supplemental information



Moore, S.E., J. M. Waite, N. A. Friday and T. Honkalehto. 2002. Cetacean distribution and relative abundance on the central–eastern and the southeastern Bering Sea shelf with reference to oceanographic domains. Progress in Oceanography. 55(1-2): 249-261.



Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by SEAMAP)
Marine mammals428
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2000-06-10
Date, End2000-07-02
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude54.19 - 58.59
Longitude-170.30 - -154.98
Coord. prec.4 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
EffortYES (ID: 125)
Traveled (km)2,519
Effort hours119
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics