US Navy

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Marine Species Monitoring

Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (PACMAPPS) survey

Introduction & Objectives

The Navy continued its ongoing collaboration with NOAA called PacMAPPS (Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species) by providing significant funding toward the second systematic line transect survey of the Mariana Islands.  This survey occurred in May-July 2021 in order to increase knowledge of marine mammal occurrence, density, and population identity in MITT.  This survey complemented the data obtained during small boat surveys funded jointly by the Navy and NOAA from 2010-2019. It also complemented the Navy-contracted 2007 MISTCS survey that provided the first marine mammal density estimates for the Marianas.  The survey results are expected to result in density estimates, which will be used by the Navy and NOAA for stock assessment reports (NOAA) and effects modeling (Navy).

The Navy continued the collaboration for a systematic line transect survey of the Gulf of Alaska in summer 2021. This survey increaseed knowledge of marine mammal occurrence, density, and population identity in the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area (GOA TMAA). 

Previous PacMAPPS surveys occurred in the Hawaiian Archipelago during summer 2017 and winter 2020 and along the U.S. west coast from California to Washington during 2018 with the same objectives to increase knowledge of marine mammal occurrence, density, and population identity.  The surveys resulted in density estimates used by the Navy and NOAA for stock assessment reports and effects modeling. 

Technical Approach

Large ship systematic line transect surveys, incorporating the following data collection methods: visual survey, photo-identification, biopsy and genetic analysis, satellite tagging, opportunistic acoustic recording

Progress & Results

Gulf of Alaska  Surveys completed in 2009, 2014, and 2021. The 2009 and 2014 surveys were called “Gulf of Alaska Line-transect Surveys” (GOALS), but the techniques were the same as the surveys conducted under the Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (PacMAPPS) in 2021.

The Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (PacMAPPS) survey occurred from 1 August 20 to 26 August 2021, beginning and ending in Kodiak, AK. Over the course of the survey, a total of 2,330 km of on-effort tracklines were surveyed in suitable weather conditions, and a total of 667 sightings of marine mammals were documented (including duplicates and resights). Primary species sightings include North Pacific right, fin, humpback, killer, and sperm whales, and Dall’s and harbor porpoise. Pinnipeds and rare birds (e.g., short-tailed albatross) were also recorded opportunistically.

A total of 100 sonobuoys were deployed, of which 96 were successful deployments (i.e., sonobuoys transmitted correctly), for an overall success rate of 87.3%. Acoustically detected species were the same as those visually sighted. However, sonobouys also recorded seismic air guns and vessel noise. A long-term bottom mounted passive acoustic recorder mooring in Barnabas Trough was retrieved and a new one deployed; the instrument recorded for a full year.

A total of 20 Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth casts were conducted, and 119 nutrient and 8 salinity samples were collected. Additionally, sea surface temperature, fluorescence salinity, and wind speed were sampled continuously along the survey track, and data on the prey field were collected when possible by the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler and EK-80 echo sounder.

Analyses of the visual sighting are underway; these results will provide abundance and density estimates for several species in the region.  Photographic results provided new information on the presence of specific ecotypes and, in some cases, individual identification of killer whales in the study area. Four unique North Pacific right whales were sighted, two of which were confirmed new individuals. The inclusion of sonobuoys as a passive acoustic monitoring tool again proved successful during the survey. Researchers were able to increase understanding of the spatio-temporal distribution of many marine mammal species in the northern Gulf of Alaska, and obtain recordings of a variant of song that is produced by the North Pacific right whales. Analyses on the similarities of this variant with the known Bering Sea version is ongoing. 

 

Data available in the following reports:

Rone et al. 2009 (Data analysis of 2009 survey)

Rone et al. 2014 (Data analysis of 2013 survey)

Rone et al. 2017 (Data analysis of 2009 and 2013 visual surveys with NMFS and combined with data from NMFS 2015 NPRW survey)

Crance et al. 2022 (Data analysis of 2021 survey)

 

Mariana Islands – May-July 2021 summer survey completed. 

Data available in the following reports:

Yano et al. 2022. Cetacean and Seabird Data During MACS May-July 2021

 

Hawaii – Hawaii 2020 winter survey completed.

Data available in the following reports:

Cetacean and Seabird Data Collected During the Winter Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (Winter HICEAS), January–March 2020

 

California Current Ecosystem – West coast 2018 survey completed.  

Data available in the following reports:

NOAA Report of the California Current Ecosystem Survey (CCES): Cetacean and Seabird Data Collection Efforts, June 26-December 4, 2018

NOAA Report of Habitat-based density estimates for cetaceans in the California Current Ecosystem based on 1991-2018 survey data

NOAA Report on Passive acoustic survey of deep-diving odontocetes in the California Current Ecosystem 2018: Final report 

 

Hawaii – Hawaii 2017 summer survey completed.