Bowhead census counts more than 3,000 whales

Posted: Friday, June 08, 2001

BARROW (AP) -- A census of bowhead whales in the waters off the North Slope has counted more than 3,152 whales as of May 30th.

''We're pretty happy about going over 3,000,'' said Craig George of the North Slope Borough's Wildlife Management Department. ''That puts us right up near the highest-ever count.''

The last full whale census was conducted in 1993, when crews noted about 3,300 sightings of the animals.

George said the census will continue until the ice gives out.

The bowhead census provides raw data for scientific estimates. Based on the 1993 census, the total bowhead population was estimated at about 8,200 animals. This year's census is expected to yield the same count, or higher, George said.

''It's hard to believe we're actually seeing a third of them,'' he added. ''There's got to be a lot of whales out here -- I'll tell you that.''

One purpose of the census is to get an accurate number of the bowhead whale population for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. The commission can then use that data when requesting annual quotas from the International Whaling Commission.

George said about a dozen census counters were out on the ice this week, down from a crew of 17 in late April.

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