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The latest research cruise in the IWC-POWER programme has returned to port and confirmed another successful voyage.

IWC-POWER is an international collaboration to determine the status of large whale populations in the North Pacific, including areas of the North-east Pacific and Bering Sea that have not been surveyed for many decades.  Now in its twelfth year, the annual cruises are devised by the Scientific Committee of the IWC.  They contribute valuable information for stock assessment, and enable researchers to understand whether conservation threats exist for particular populations and if so, what measures might address these threats.    

This programme is a successor to IWC-SOWER, an earlier collaboration to survey the Southern Ocean.  IWC-SOWER ran for over ten years and completed its work in 2010.  In addition to valuable information on the status of cetacean populations in Antarctic waters, the experiences gained during the earlier programme were incorporated into the construction of the North Pacific research programme that followed. 

The research voyages usually embark each August for a duration of approximately 60 days.  The scientists on board work from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset, making the most of the opportunity and the daylight.  The objectives for this year’s cruise included providing information for ongoing IWC assessments of North Pacific sei, humpback and gray whales in terms of abundance, distribution and stock structure. 

This year, the vessel returned to port in Japan on 30 September, having covered 1,563 nautical miles.  Photo-identification was achieved for five different species and 69 individual animals, and the team obtained 19 biopsies which will be used for DNA analysis.  For the first time, diving data loggers were also used to gather more information about diving behaviours, including depth and duration.

Scientists from Japan and the US participated in this 2021 voyage, onboard a research vessel that is generously provided by the Government of Japan.  Japan is no longer a member of the IWC but collaboration continues in a number of areas.

A report of the cruise will be presented to the Scientific Committee of the IWC at its annual meeting in Spring 2022.

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

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