REPORT 2009 2010 2011

In 2009 we worked in three regions of Eastern Kamchatka: Karaginsky Gulf, Avacha Gulf and Commander Islands. Avacha Gulf and Karaginsky Gulf are the regions of intensive fishery, but waters around Commander Islands include 30 miles of marine protected area.
At Karaginsky Gulf, we worked from 8th June till 23rd July. We worked at sea from the 4.8m inflatable boat with outboard motor. The total length of tracks during the boat-based work was 1322.3 km. Also, we have made one survey onboard of a big cargo ship in Litke Strait (a strait between Karaginsky Island and mainland). During the surveys we recorded our GPS track and all cetaceans we observed. If we met killer whales or humpback whales, we took the photographs for identification. We have identified a total of 38 killer whales. All of them were of resident ecotype. 24 of these killer whales were observed previously in Avacha Gulf. We have identified a total of 13 humpback whales. Six of these whales were encountered in previous years in Karaginsky Island area. Two animals were sighted more than once in 2009: one animal was re-sighted twice in 2009, and one animal was re-sighted once. Our results suggest that killer whales of Karaginsky Island area represent a part of Eastern Kamchatka population, and humpback whales belong to a separate Karaginsky feeding stock, which show a high site-fidelity through the years. Besides humpback and killer whales, we have also encountered about 26 harbour porpoises (9 groups), 12 Dallís porpoises (4 groups) and 23 minke whales in Karaginsky Island area.
In Avacha Gulf, we worked from 19th July till 22nd of August. We worked at sea from the 4.3m inflatable boat with outboard motor. The total length of tracks during the boat-based work was 630.5 km.
In Avacha Gulf the most frequent species was a killer whale. We have photographed killer whales for photoidentification. In 2009, we have identified 119 killer whales in Avacha Gulf. Most of these whales were regularly encountered in the area in previous years. Besides killer whales, we have also encountered 6 humpback whales, 1 grey whale, 5-7 Dallís porpoises (3 groups) and 5 minke whales in Avacha Gulf.
At Commander Islands, we conducted land-based observations with binoculars and telescope. If killer whales appeared in the area, we worked with them from the boat to get photographs for identification. We had also took photographs of humpback whales during the boat-based work. The total length of tracks during the boat-based work was 332.3 km.
Land-based observations were conducted from 10th August till 13th September. The total duration of visual observations was 280 hours 28 minutes, the total duration of scanning the area with binoculars Ė 127 hours 21 minutes. During the land-based observations we scanned the area with binoculars for 15 minutes in half an hour. The binoculars had a built-in compass and distance grid, which allowed us to note the azimuth and the distance to all observed cetaceans. Later we have calculated latitude and longitude of each animal and put the encounters on the map. During the observations we have observed seven cetacean species: killer whale, sperm whale, Bairdís beaked whale, Dallís porpoise, humpback whale, minke whale, and fin whale. Humpback whales and killer whales were the most frequent species encountered in the area.
We met mostly resident (fish-eating) killer whales, and only two encounters were with transient (mammal-eating) killer whales. During boat-based work we have encountered a total of 244 killer whales. Photoidentification allowed us to find matches between Commander Islands and other areas of Kamchatka. Six identified groups were observed previously in Avacha Gulf of Kamchatka, one group Ė in Litke Strait (Karaginsky Gulf) in July 2009. These matches suggest that groups of resident killer whales can travel between Commander Islands and different parts of Kamchatka and apparently represent the same population.
During the boat-based observations we identified a total of 63 humpback whales. Two of these whales were encountered off Commander Islands in 2005, others were not encountered previously. Some whales were encountered several times in 2009: 9 whales were encountered twice, 4 whales were encountered three times, one whale was encountered 4 times. We have found no matches between Commander Islands and other regions of Kamchatka. Our results suggest that Commander Islands stock apparently represents a seasonal feeding aggregation, and humpback whales stay there for the feeding season rather than migrate to some other areas through the waters of the Reserve. Consequently, we suppose that the waters of Commander Islands are a significant feeding ground for humpback whales, but the numbers and habitat preferences of these whales in the area are yet to be determined through the wide-area survey.
Other whale species were less frequent than killer and humpback whales. We have observed a total of 21 sperm whale, 2 groups of Bairdís beaked whales (6-10 animals in total), 13 groups of Dallís porpoises (about 80 animals in total), 67 minke whales, and 2 fin whales.

Humpback whale

Killer whale

Sperm whale

Baird's beaked whale

Dall's porpoise

Minke whale