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Project Information

Title: Long-term killer whale monitoring in Prince William Sound/ Kenai Fjords

Project Year and Number: 2019: 19120114-N

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: None

Principal Investigator (PI): Craig Matkin, North Gulf Oceanic Society

Assisting Personnel: None

Research Location:

Restoration Category: Monitoring

Injured Resources Addressed: Killer Whales , Pacific Herring , Recreation & Tourism

Abstract: This project is a continuation of the long-term photo-identification based program that has continuously monitored killer whale populations in Prince William Sound since 1984. A primary focus has been on resident killer whales and the recovery of AB pod and the threatened AT1 population of transient killer whales. These two groups of whales suffered serious losses at the time of the oil spill and have not recovered at projected rates. Assessment of population dynamics, feeding ecology, movements, range, and contaminant levels for all major pods in the area will help determine their vulnerability to future perturbations and environmental change, including oil spills. In addition to population dynamics from annual photo-identification, this project uses other techniques to determine the health and trends of the population. These techniques include biopsy/skin sampling to compare genetics between populations, biopsy/blubber to investigate contaminants, fatty acid and stable isotope profiles, prey sampling of flesh, fish scales, and whale scat to investigate diet, behavioral observation, and remote acoustic monitoring to determine important off-season habitat. During FY18, remote recording hydrophones have been recovered and redeployed in Montague Strait, Hinchinbrook Entrance, and Kenai Fjords. Initial investigation of this raw acoustic data suggests that strong fall activity in Montague Strait still occurs, but in 2016 and 2017 were 2-3 weeks later than in past years. If this timing continues, we may adjust the field effort dates to improve encounter rates. Between our surveys and contributed photos, we were able to confirm that all seven of the remaining Threatened AT1 transient population have survived to 2018. We are not proposing any major changes to this project for FY19.

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Proposal: View PDF (302 KB)

Funding Recommendations: View

Funding Detail For: 2019

Quarterly Project Tasks For: 2019

Annual Report: 2019: Due 03/01/2020

Final Report: Draft Final Report Due 4/15/20

Publications from this Project: None Available