Satellite maps of tagged Alaskan Beluga stocks in the Wintering Areas

The maps below include tags reporting from three different tagging efforts: Eastern Chukchi stock, Eastern Bering stock and the Bristol Bay stock. It is interesting to see how the three stocks partition themselves over the winter. Keep in mind that these are not the only stocks wintering in the Bering Sea. There are also beluga whales in the Gulf of Anadyr, and the eastern Beaufort Sea stock (also known as the Mackenzie stock) winters somewhere in the Bering Sea. We have no tags for these stocks at this time.

Lots of folks have helped to collect this data, including the North Slope Borough, the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, the Bristol Bay Native Association, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and many subsistence hunters.  Thank you all, and especially thanks to John Citta of ADFG for producing these maps.

Satellite tag locations between 10 December and 20 December 2012. Currently there are 10 beluga tags transmitting in the Bering Sea.  One is from the eastern Chukchi stock (green track on the map), two are from the eastern Bering Sea stock (red tracks on the map), and seven are from the Bristol Bay stock (yellow tracks on the map).  Based upon past tagging efforts, we do not expect the Bristol Bay stock to leave Bristol Bay.  There is also limited data for the eastern Chukchi stock that suggests they mainly winter north of St. Lawrence Island, however, that is largely based on one satellite tag.  Finally, we know almost nothing about where the eastern Bering Sea stock winters.  Hence, we should learn a great deal if these satellite tags keep transmitting!

Satellite tag locations between 24 December 2012 and 3 January 2013. Currently there is one tag transmitting from the eastern Chukchi stock, two from the eastern Bering Sea stock, and ten from the Bristol Bay stock.  The sea ice data is for 2 January

Satellite tag locations between 1 and 14 January 2013. There are still six beluga tags transmitting in the Bering Sea.  One from the eastern Chukchi Sea stock (tagged at Point Lay), two from the eastern Bering Sea stock (tagged near Nome), and three from the Bristol Bay stock (tagged near Dillingham).

Satellite tag locations between 15 and 30 January 2013. There are still six beluga tags transmitting in the Bering Sea.  One from the eastern Chukchi Sea stock (tagged at Point Lay) is still located near the west coast of St. Lawrence Island; two from the eastern Bering Sea stock (tagged near Nome) are located south-southeast of Nunivak Island; and three from the Bristol Bay stock (tagged near Dillingham) remain in Bristol Bay. Interestingly, one of the eastern Bering Sea whales travelled east into waters commonly frequented by belugas in the Bristol Bay stock.

Satellite tag locations between 1 and 19 February 2013.There are still six belugas with active satellite transmitters in the Bering Sea.  The beluga from the eastern Chukchi stock remains near the western side of St. Lawrence Island.  The two belugas from the eastern Bering Sea stock (tagged near Nome) have moved west and are now located approximately 120 miles northwest of the Pribilof Islands.  Three belugas from the Bristol Bay stock are also transmitting within Bristol Bay.

Satellite tag locations between 15 February and 12 March 2013.There are still six beluga tags transmitting in the Bering Sea.  Three are still transmitting within Bristol Bay.  The two belugas from the eastern Bering Sea stock are currently along the ice edge, south of Nunivak Island and east of the Pribilof Islands.  The beluga from the eastern Chukchi stock is still located near the northwest coast of St. Lawrence Island.

Satellite tag locations between 1 and 21 March 2013.There are transmissions from six beluga tags: one in the eastern Chukchi stock, two in the eastern Bering stock, and three in the Bristol Bay stock. The southern Bering Sea is obscured by clouds in the image, so the southern ice edge is marked with a dashed line. Modis image provided by the National Ice Center (http://www.natice.noaa.gov/).

Satellite tag locations between 17 March and 4 April 2013. Six beluga tags are still transmitting in the Bering Sea.  As expected, belugas of the Bristol Bay stock are within Bristol Bay (yellow tracks).  The eastern Bering Sea belugas are currently located approximately 80 miles north-northwest of St. Paul Island (red tracks).  The eastern Chukchi Sea beluga (green track) has moved northeast from St. Lawrence Island.  This beluga is currently located along the Alaskan coast between Nome and Wales. This movement from NW of Saint Lawrence Island to near King Island (between Nome and Wales) is exactly what happened in April 2008 with a different tagged beluga. In 2008, the move happened a bit later, about 11 or 12 April, but the pattern was the same.

Satellite tag locations between 25 March and 17 April 2013.  There are still six beluga tags transmitting in the Bering Sea. The MODIS ice image was taken on 17 April and is largely free of cloud cover.

Satellite tag locations between 19 and 29 April 2013. There are still five beluga transmitters on the air: one in the eastern Chukchi stock (green trackline), two in the eastern Bering Sea stock (red tracklines), and two in the Bristol Bay stock (yellow tracklines).  The MODIS ice image was taken on 27 April and is heavily obscured by cloud cover.

Satellite tag locations between 3 and 13 May 2013. We are still receiving transmissions from four belugas in the Bering Sea.  We are getting transmissions from one tag in the eastern Chukchi stock, two from the eastern Bering stock, and one from the Bristol Bay stock.  The eastern Chukchi beluga whale is still located west of Nome, both eastern Bering Sea belugas are currently near Nunivak Island, and the Bristol Bay beluga appears to be located in the Naknek River.

Satellite tag locations between 20 and 30 May 2013. We have stopped receiving transmissions from the beluga tags deployed in the Bristol Bay and eastern Chukchi stocks.  However, both of the eastern Bering Sea (Norton Sound) belugas are still transmitting. One of the eastern Bering Sea belugas is currently between Hooper Bay and Nunivak Island, and the other eastern Bering Sea beluga is located just southeast of St. Lawrence Island..

Satellite tag locations between 30 June and 9 July 2013. The two beluga whales from the eastern Bering Sea stock are still transmitting.  Both whales are located in southern Norton Sound.

Satellite tag locations as of 29 July 2013 (disregard the dates in the first sentence on the map above). NS12-1, the beluga tagged on 29 September 2012, is transmitting normally and is currently located north of Kotlik, along the edge of the sediment plume that comes out of the Yukon River.  NS12-2 last transmitted on 12 July and is represented by a yellow dot on the attached map.

Satellite tag locations as of 29 July 2013 (disregard the dates in the first sentence on the map above). NS12-1, the beluga tagged on 29 September 2012, is transmitting normally and is currently located north of Kotlik, along the edge of the sediment plume that comes out of the Yukon River.  NS12-2 last transmitted on 12 July and is represented by a yellow dot on the attached map.

Satellite tag locations as of 12 August 2013. NS12-1 is located near the mouth of the Yukon River.

Satellite tag locations as of 26 August 2013. NS12-1 remains near the mouth of the Yukon River along the edge of the mud plume exiting the Yukon.

Satellite tag locations as of 8 September 2013. Beluga NS12-1 is currently located 40 miles north of Kotlik, Alaska.  The MODIS image was taken on 7 September.

The first beluga that Tom Gray and his crew tagged in Nome last fall (on 9 September 2012) is still on the air.

Again, thanks to the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, North Slope Borough, National Marine Mammal Lab, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for sharing data and collaborating.