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Annual IWC-POWER Cruise sets sail from Alaska

The 10th international research cruise in the IWC-POWER series has embarked from Dutch Harbour, Alaska.   This is the latest stage in a long-term programme to determine the status of populations of the large whales found in North Pacific Waters, some of which have not been surveyed for several decades.

This year's cruise will cover the Gulf of Alaska and aims to provide essential information, enabling scientists to understand whether conservation threats exist for particular species and locations and if so, what measures might address these threats.

The research vessel, Yushin Maru No. 2, is provided by the Government of Japan, and the long-term scientific programme has been designed and approved by the IWC’s Scientific Committee and its 88 member governments.  The Government of Japan left the IWC in June but co-operation continues in a number of research areas.    

The cruise is an international collaboration and includes an acoustic component, made possible by the provision of equipment by the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The objectives for this year’s cruise are broadly similar to previous years and include providing information for the ongoing IWC assessments of North Pacific sei, humpback and gray whales in terms of abundance, distribution and stock structure.  A primary focus this year will be collecting independent observer data on sei whales.

The duration of each cruise is approximately 60 days.  This is the maximum operational period of the vessel before refuelling and resupplying is necessary.  By the time the vessel has travelled to and from the area of study, approximately 45-50 days remain for research.  The scientists on board work from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset, making the most of the opportunity and the daylight.  Between 70 and 90 nautical miles are covered each day that the vessel is in the research area.

In addition to recording all marine mammal sightings, the cruise will employ photo-identification methods to identify individual whales.  Small biopsy samples will also be taken for genetic and other analyses. 

A report of the cruise will be presented to the Scientific Committee of the IWC at its annual meeting in Spring 2020.

To read more about the IWC-POWER programme click here.

Click here to be taken to the IWC-POWER image gallery.