Principal Investigator: J. Craig George, Ph.D.
Collaborators: Sue Moore, Dave Rugh and Julie Mocklin (NMFS), William Koski (LGL), Judy Zeh (University of Washington), Barb Tudor
Funding: NSB, NOAA, AEWC
Summary: Photo-recapture methods were first attempted as a means to estimate bowhead abundance in 1985-86 (DaSilva, 2000). Koski et al. (2010) calculated an abundance estimate for 2004 of the BCB bowhead whales of 12,600 (95% confidence intervals 7,900 – 19,700 ). The large variance in this estimate is due to the low number of recaptures and uncertainty of the estimate. This same approach was also used in 2011.
Publications

November 2013 Photo Matching Update: Craig George and Barb Tudor have evaluated over 6000 photographs taken in the spring of 2011. These will be used to match with photos from past years to determine body growth, calving rates, scar types, and even population size.

Bowhead Scarring Study - Line entanglements, killer whale bites, and ship strikes

ASAMM (NOAA's Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals) - more information on monitoring the distribution of bowhead whales and other marine mammals (archived to 2006)

Help Us Identify Whales!

The pictures below are examples of photos that can be used for photo-recapture identification:

Bowhead whale cow-calf pair moving along the ice edge during the spring near Barrow in 2004. (Source: Bill Koski)

Bowhead whale cow-calf pair moving along the ice edge during the spring near Barrow in 2004. (Source: Bill Koski)

Bowhead whale photographed off Barrow in the fall of 2005. Note the scar and white flukes which are characteristics of very old whales. These marks are useful for photo re-capture identification. Photo: Craig George

Bowhead whale photographed off Barrow in the fall of 2005. Note the scar and white flukes which are characteristics of very old whales. These marks are useful for photo re-capture identification. Photo: Craig George

Bowhead whale with white peduncle. Photo: Craig George

Bowhead whale with white peduncle. Photo: Craig George

A pair of bowhead whales near Cooper Island in the fall of 2005. Photo: Craig George

A pair of bowhead whales near Cooper Island in the fall of 2005. Photo: Craig George

This is a great example of a photo-recapture:

cow calf pair in May 2011 cow calf pair sept 2011

Photograph on the left: Female bowhead whale with a neonate calf taken on May 24, 2011 at Barrow during the spring migration. Photograph on the right: The same pair photographed on September 13, 2011 at Barrow during the fall migration. Note the scars on the back of the female which are used for identification, and how much the calf has grown in nearly 4 months. (Photos courtesy of National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, WA [Permit #14245] and NSB Dept of Wildlife Management)

Journal articles on aerial photography and photo-identification and related studies:

DaSilva, C.Q. et al. 2000. Capture-recapture estimation of bowhead whale population size using photoidentification
data. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2(1):45-61.

Koski, W.R., et al. 2005. An update of aerial photography of bowhead whales conducted during the 2003-2005 spring migrations. Presented to the 57th International Whaling Commission. SC/57/BRG16.

Koski, W.R., et al. 2007. Review of bowhead whale aerial photographic studies in 2003-06. Presented to the 59th International Whaling Commission. SC/59/BRG6.

Rugh, D.J., et al. 2008. Interyear re-identifications of bowhead whales during their spring migration past Point Barrow, Alaska, 1984-1994. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 10(3):195-200.

Koski, W.R., et al. 2009. Abundance of Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in 2004 estimated from photo-identification data. Presented to the 61st International Whaling Commission. SC/61.

Koski, W.R., et al. 2010. Abundance of Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in 2004 estimated from photo-identification data. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 11(2):89-99.

Mocklin, J., et al. 2012. Aerial phtography of bowhead whales near Barrow, Alaska, during the 2011 spring migration. Presented to the 64th International Whaling Commission. SC/64/BRG03.

Mocklin, J., et al. 2015. Update on the 2011 bowhead whale aerial abundance spring survey (BAASS) photoanalysis. Presented to the 66th International Whaling Commission. SC/66a/BRG03.

Brattstorm, L.V., et al. 2016. Update on the bowhead whale aerial photoID program and 2011 aerial spring survey. Presented to the 66th International Whaling Commission. SC/66b/BRG04.

Druckenmiller, M.L., et al. 2017. Trends in sea-ice cover within bowhead whale habitats in the Pacific Arctic. Deep-Sea Research Part II, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.10.017.

(Source: Koski et al., 2009)

Banner photo credit: Aerial view of bowhead whale migrating past Barrow. photo by Amelia Brower, NOAA, AFSC, NMML Permit # 782-1719-09