From ship strikes and net entanglements, to detrimental interactions with fisheries and large scale changes in their ocean environment, marine mammals face a difficult future.
Alaska Whale Foundation is committed to ensuring the long-term health of marine mammals and their coastal environments, and that means taking an active role in marine conservation.
Large Whale Disentanglement
Entanglement in fishing gear is a serious problem for marine mammals. When animals become seriously entangled, they can die from starvation, infection, or drowning. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest sources of mortality for humpback whales in Alaska.
AWF, together with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Coast Guard, is part of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This passionate team of trained responders is authorized to free marine mammals from entanglement and to gather critical information that may reduce the frequency and impact of future entanglements.
Ship strikes are one of the primary threats to marine mammals and a major cause for concern in Alaska. AWF helps inform vessel owners about ways to reduce the risk of ship strikes. The organization also works with a team of scientists and veterinarians to collect biological samples from dead animals that provide invaluable data on the health of the population.
From sperm whales that steal fish from black cod fishermen, to humpbacks that feed on juvenile salmon newly released from hatchery pens, costly interactions between marine mammals and fisheries are on the rise.
These are challenging issues that will undoubtedly continue to occur as marine mammals are faced with changing oceans and diminishing prey resources. Alaska Whale Foundation collaborates with regional biologists, the fishing industry, and resource managers to find solutions and reduce the economic impact that these detrimental interactions are having on the various fisheries.
Long-term Population Monitoring
Long-term population monitoring is a key component of AWF's conservation program. By systematically tracking the abundance, distribution and health of humpbacks throughout the spring, summer and fall, the AWF team can identify changes in their population as they occur. In addition to providing insight into how whales are impacted by changing ocean conditions, these data can help managers to identify actions to mitigate potential threats.