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Over the next few months, NOAA Fisheries researcher Jessica Crance will be part of an international team of scientists studying whales in the Bering Sea. Jessica will be listening for whales and North Pacific right whales in particular. She is hoping to locate one of the 30 or so remaining North Pacific right whales known to inhabit the eastern portion of the Bering Sea. If she does, she and others will photograph and collect small skin samples to learn more about these elusive and critically endangered creatures.
Jess will be conducting her research on board a Japanese research vessel that was provided to the International Whaling Commission by the Government of Japan for the Commission’s Pacific Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (POWER) survey. This is the 8th POWER survey. What’s exciting is that this will be the first time that there will be an acoustic component to the research program. It also is the first time that there has been an opportunity to explore the expanse of the Bering Sea in search of North Pacific right whales. The plan is to survey the entire Bering Sea over three years. This year the focus will be on the eastern Bering Sea, next year the central portion and in 2019, the hope is to survey the western portion of the Bering Sea including Russian waters.
Besides North Pacific right whales, scientists will be collecting information on abundance, distribution and stock structure for North Pacific sei, humpback, sperm and gray whales and will complete a survey of the northern range of fin whales that was started in 2010-2012.
Jessica Crance is a research biologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Laboratory.
She joined the Lab’s Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program in 2009 after completing her M.S. at the University of San Diego on killer whale vocal development.
Her research focuses on marine mammal passive acoustics, with an emphasis on population monitoring, spatio-temporal distribution, vocal behavior, and call characteristics of Arctic and sub-Arctic marine mammals.