right whales in bering sea

North Pacific Right Whales in Bering Sea

Almost two weeks ago, Josh Trosvig saw a group of North Pacific Right whales in Bering Sea, in winter! At that time he had no idea what type of whales they were so he asked for help. He has been fishing in Bering Sea for 35 years and never saw a group of whales acting like this before. As a fisherman, he was fascinated and wanted to learn more.

When he spotted the group of whales from his 58 foot boat, Cerulean, he first reached out to Asia Beder. He was hoping she would have the answers and help him identify the species. His email subject line was ‘Can you ID this?’. Beder is an assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. After struggling to identify the dark whales with white spots, she sent the video to NOAA fisheries.

Jessica Crance is a research biologist who works at Marine Mammal lab at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. This is also part of the NOAA Fisheries. After watching the video and looking over the photos in the email, she was sure that the this was a group of North Pacific right whales. Right whales are not only endangered species but they have never been seen before in the Bering Sea in winter time.

Whale Identification

There are three types of right whales: North Atlantic, Souther Right whales and North Pacific. The North Pacific whales are split into two different categories; western and eastern. The western right whales can be found in Japan and Russia but there are only around 300-500 of them left. For the eastern right whale, it’s estimated that there are only about 30 of them left. This is largely due to whaling and the right whales were the perfect target since they move slow.

Before Josh Trosvig’s video, scientists like Jessica Crance thought that the right whales migrate somewhere warmer during the winter months. Now, they are convinced that some of the species stay in Bering Sea during winter. The video has given them hope to learn more about the eastern right whales. While the whales have not been seen in the ocean since the video, the NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Coast Guard are asking boaters to be careful. We do not want to harm a single one of these endangered species, and hope to learn more about them instead.

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