Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Pacific Orcinus Distribution Survey 2016

Researchers follow endangered Southern Resident killer whales off the coasts of OR and WA.

Welcome to the 2016 PODS Blog page! NOAA Fisheries scientists will be conducting a survey for 20 days aboard the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada to help us understand where endangered Southen Resident killer whales go during the winter months, as well as to better understand their ecosystem. Follow us as we share interesting news and photos from our survey!

Cruise underway

By Peggy Foreman
February 29, 2016

February 21, 2016

Our window of opportunity to get underway relies on the tides and weather conditions. The high tide was at 11:03am at 8.88’ and we left during slack tide at 10:30am. The objective of this cruise is to locate and stay with our Southern Resident killer whales to better understand their winter distribution. We would like to have a better understanding of what these whales are eating, what habitats they are utilizing to find their prey. Earlier this year, our scientists tagged K33, also known as Tika, a young 15 year old male in K pod. We were able to track this whale for a total of 48 days, but as you know this tag fell off four days before our cruise. So after leaving Newport we decided to head North to the area the tag was last transmitting. We deployed our hydrophone array by early afternoon and started visual observations, but as of 9pm the Southern Residents have not been detected. Also within the first hour and a half we started our Oceanography sampling as well. We will be recording surface salinity and temperature as well as collecting surface water samples to determine chlorophyll a and nutrients. Temperature profiles from the surface to the bottom will be recorded by XBTs, or a CTD, if possible. If CTDs are possible, salinity profiles will also be recorded and water samples will be collected at a variety of depths to determine chlorophyll a and nutrients. Working in the field is unpredictable on so many levels. Weather conditions such as fog and rain can severely impede our ability to find and track the whales. So the acoustic scientists help detect and track the whales 24 hours a day. We also have scientists up on the fly bridge locating and tracking the whales during daylight hours and weather permitting. Today we got lucky, we started off with a cloudy dark sky but ended up with sunny skies, but pretty big swells as big as 8 ft. in height. Here are some of the photos from today:

Orientation for how to use the "big eyes".
Setting up the acoustics lab.
The Acoustic Team.
Deploying the X-aray.

Tagged: Southern Resident killer whales, winter survey

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