First Update; pages 907-913



Protocol of the Twelfth Meeting of the Marine Mammal Project, U.S.-Russia Environmental Protection Agreement, Anchorage, 1993


Done at Anchorage 10 December 1993
Primary source citation: Copy of text provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior



Anchorage, Alaska, USA 6-10 December 1993

The Twelfth Meeting was held at the U.S. National Biological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, 6-10 December 1993. Representing the United States side were: R. V. Miller, Head of U.S. Delegation; T. R. Loughlin; J. D. Baker; R. L. Brownell, Jr.; L. F. Lowry; J. Lewis; D. Calkins; J. R. Nickles; D. Seagars; C. Gorbics; A. Doroff; L. Holland-Bartels; G. Garner; J. Bodkin; B. Ballachey; and P. Ward.

Representing the Russian side were: V. A. Vladimirov, Head of the Russian Delegation; A. A. Berzin; A. I. Boltnev; A. M. Burdin; V. N. Burkanov; Yu. A. Bukhtiyarov; I. V. Mikno; and A. S. Perlov.

The Meetings sessions were co-chaired by R. V. Miller (U.S.A.) and V. A. Vladimirov (Russia).


Steller Sea Lions:

Dr. T. R. Loughlin presented the results of joint NMFS/ADF&G aerial and ship-based surveys of Steller sea lions in 1992-93. Pup counts at trend sites surveyed every second year declined approximately 15% between 1990-92, and 20% between 1991-93. Adult counts at Marmot Island decreased in 1993, after a period of relatively slow decline during 1991-92. Low resight rates of animals tagged and branded during 1987-88 indicate low juvenile survival. Dr. Loughlin also reported on recent prey studies including hydroacoustic, trawl sampling, and scat studies. Additional research was conducted on foraging behavior, energetics, pup growth and condition, and thermoregulation.

Mr. D. Calkins reported on aerial surveys and pup counts in the eastern Gulf of Alaska and Southeast Alaska. In the Eastern Gulf there has been a 5-10% decline in non-pups since 1989, during which time pup counts remained stable. In 1993, approximately 500 pups were counted on the Wooded Islands outside Prince William Sound. This rookery was last surveyed in 1979, when about 30 pups were present. In Southeast Alaska the Steller sea lion population remains stable. This area was not completely surveyed during 1993 due to inclement weather. A new field camp was established on Lowry Island where physiology, attendance and foraging behavior, immobilization techniques, and population parameters are under investigation. This site is in the area where sea lions are not declining and is now assumed to be the largest Steller sea lion rookery in the world.

Dr. A. S. Perlov described studies in the Kuril Islands during 1992. Counts at four major rookeries totalled 1,623 live and 29 dead pups. There were 3,200 pups at these same sites in 1963, and 1,400-1,900 pups during 1989-91. In the Lovushki Island group, a rookery with approximately 100 pups was found. This was previously recorded as a haulout site. Twelve other haulout sites throughout the Kuril Islands showed severe declines in 1992. Counts on 13 islands totalled approximately 5,000 pups, juveniles and adults. The total population of the Kuril Islands is estimated to be 8,000-10,000 animals. A total of 73 sea lions branded and/or tagged on 4 Kuril Island rookeries were resighted in 1992. Most were seen on their natal islands, however several were found as far away as Robben Island and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Dr. V. N. Burkanov discussed sea lion surveys, pup mortality studies, food habits research and pup tagging and survival during the first year of life on Cape Kozlov (Kamchatka Peninsula), Medny Island, and Atlasova Island (northern Kuril Islands). Numbers of sea lions on Medny Island have been stable for the past 3 years (500-600 adults and juveniles, and about 230 pups). Tag returns indicate that there is intermixture between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Commander and Kuril Islands, and perhaps the Aleutian Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Some very sparse data indicate that 10-20% of the Kamchatka population may have been incidentally taken in pollock fisheries off Kamchatka in 1991-92. A general discussion followed during which Dr. V. A. Vladimirov proposed a joint effort to determine the primary factors which govern dynamics of sea lion populations throughout the species' range.

Dr. Loughlin noted that the American side will conduct aerial and ship-based surveys of northern sea lions throughout Alaska during summer 1994 as part of a coordinated effort to conduct a range-wide survey. Participants discussed the potential for surveys to be conducted on the Russian side also. It was agreed that the survey is necessary, but that funding and other constraints may preclude a complete survey of the Russian part of the population. Progress toward resolving this question will be maintained through correspondence.

Northern Fur Seals:

Dr. A. I. Boltnev reported on recent studies on the Commander Islands. In 1993, total pup production on Bering and Medny Islands was an estimated 68,000. Over the last several years there has been a slight decline in pup production on the Commander Islands, although the trend varies among the rookeries. Numbers of adult males have fluctuated since the 1960's, largely in response to varying subadult male harvest rates. Weights of pups and analyses of sub-adult male teeth indicate a deterioration of environmental conditions since the mid-1980's. Dr. Boltnev also noted a decline in the proportion of 3-5 year-old females present on the rookeries in 1991-92. Dr. Perlov reported that the number of pups born on Robben Island continues to decline. Approximately 15,000 pups were born there in 1992; the 1993 estimate is still unavailable but is expected to be still lower. A decline in the number of young breeding females was noted on Robben Island. The number of adult males appears to be stable, and this is due to regulation of male harvest rates. Currently, about 1,500 young males are harvested annually. Dr. Perlov believes that the population decline is due to unfavorable conditions at sea. Tagging, tag resights, age and sex structure, and entanglement studies continue on Robben Island. No recent studies have been conducted on the Kuril Islands.

Dr. Vladimirov noted that the Robben Island population is presently in unsatisfactory condition. The situation on the Commander Islands is much better, probably due to significant immigration from the Pribilof Islands. Dr. Vladimirov then distributed a report on recent Russian fur seal population status.

Dr. Loughlin presented recent research results on the U.S. population. He discussed recent trends in pup production, bull counts, and entanglement rates. Pup production remains stable on St. Paul Island, is perhaps stabilizing on St. George Island, and is growing on Bogoslof and San Miguel Islands. He also listed the titles of several publications in press and in preparation regarding migration, growth, homing, fasting, food habits and foraging ecology of northern fur seals.

Dr. Vladimirov briefly discussed similar trends in entanglement rates on St. Paul and Robben Islands. He recommended that, as proposed for Steller sea lions, it would be useful to undertake a joint Russian/U.S. analysis of fur seal population dynamics. Dr. Loughlin agreed and recommended that the desire to conduct such analyses be included in the protocol.

Dr. Boltnev announced that a working group is planned for early 1994 in Kamchatka with the purpose of comparing population dynamics of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions. Dr. Boltnev would like to have American specialists, and perhaps Japanese and Canadian researchers, attend this working group. Dr. Boltnev also commented that Kamchatka TINRO will likely obtain time-depth recorders to study foraging behavior of fur seals and that aid of American specialists would be useful in the field.

Mr. I. V. Mikhno announced that a new nature preserve was established on the Commander Islands in 1993. Larga seals:

Mr. L. F. Lowry described ADF&G aerial surveys of larga seals on the Chukchi Sea coast during 1989-91. Those surveys indicated that numbers of larga seals hauled out vary a great deal from day to day and between seasons. Since 1992, the NMML has conducted spring and summer aerial surveys along the northwest Alaska coast, as well as genetic studies in cooperation with ADF&G and Dr. Burkanov. Mr. Lowry also presented data on the migration, dive depth, and daily haulout patterns of 5 satellite tagged larga seals during October-April 1991-1993. Seven additional tags were placed on seals in the Chukchi Sea in August 1993, and 5 of those are still operational.

Dr. Burkanov presented data from a joint project with ADF&G in which four larga seals were fitted with satellite tags in the southwest region of Kamchatka in 1992. Transmitters operated during August to January and each seal exhibited widely different migration patterns. In 1993, six larga seals were satellite tagged on the east coast of Kamchatka. These transmitters are still operating and so far all animals except one remained near the area where they were tagged. The one seal which left moved north to the Chukhotka Peninsula. These studies indicate a great deal of mixing between supposedly distinct breeding populations, during the post-breeding period.

Mr. Yu. A. Bukhtiyarov noted that since 1990 ice conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk have changed, the ice break-up coming approximately 20 days earlier than usual. Ice conditions have adversely affected young of the year seals, most notably ringed seals.

Harbor seals:

Mr. Lowry began by describing recent joint research efforts of ADF&G and NMFS undertaken partly in response to precipitous declines on Tugidak Island and other locations in the Gulf of Alaska.

Dr. Loughlin presented minimum population estimates in various regions of Alaska. Aerial surveys were conducted in Bristol Bay, the Gulf of Alaska, and southeast Alaska during 1991-93. Counts at trend sites in the Gulf of Alaska have declined from 22,808 in the 1970's to 2,417 in 1992. Preliminary analyses of counts in southeast Alaska during 1993 indicate only moderate, if any, declines since the mid-1980's.

Mr. J. Lewis reported on studies designed to compare a stable (southeast Alaska), a moderately declining (Prince William Sound) and a sharply declining population (Kodiak area). The ongoing work involves disease, genetics, physiological condition, and satellite telemetry studies. Preliminary analyses indicate that the animals handled were all healthy and in good condition.

Mr. Lowry discussed research on oil spill related mortality of harbor seals and potential for habitat restoration in Prince William Sound. Approximately 300 harbor seals out of a population of about 2,500 were estimated to have died as a direct result of oiling. Mr. Lowry also described satellite telemetry studies conducted during 1991-93. Mr. Lewis added that approximately 2,800 harbor seals are taken in native subsistence harvests annually.

Dr. Vladimirov described an analysis involving correlations between a large-scale climate index (the Meridional Atmospheric Circulation Index) with abundance of several pinniped populations in the North Pacific and proposed to unite efforts of Russian and U.S. specialists to analyze the problem.

Dr. Burkanov noted that harbor seal research in Russia is limited to surveys of abundance. He suggested that it would be useful to compare trends in abundance in Russia and the U.S. Walrus:

Dr. G. Garner commented on recent work involving avoiding bias in survey methods, chemical immobilization, satellite tagging, food habits, aerial survey analysis, Bristol Bay summer population abundance, and autumn distribution of walrus in the Chukchi Sea. He also announced that walrus research is now conducted by the new National Biological Survey.

Dr. F. Fay described recent analyses which established that age at sexual maturity could be estimated from dentin microstructure. Walrus which reach sexual maturity at a later age have a tendency to live longer. Another study analyzed digestion rates of mollusk soft parts ingested by walrus.

Mr. D. Seagars described the current and future activities of the USFWS walrus management program, including the main objectives of this program's conservation plan. He described results of a revised harvest monitoring program and contaminant studies showing elevated concentrations of cadmium in walrus kidneys.

Mr. Bukhtiyarov reported on data collected during a cooperative research cruise during spring 1991 in the Gulf of Anadyr and the Eastern Bering Sea. It was found that seasonal distribution of walruses is greatly affected by the physiological and reproductive status. Mr. Bukhtiyarov also questioned the reliability of several population indices which have been cited as evidence of a population decline. He presented numbers of walrus harvested in Russia in recent years (1990-2,435; 1991-1,860; 1992-1,750; and up to September 1993-about 500).

Dr. Burkanov raised the issue of potential disturbance of walruses associated with tourists visiting haulouts. Mr. Seagars and Dr. Fay expressed their intention to provide the Russian side with documents describing regulation of tourist activities on walrus haulouts in the U.S., Canada, and Norway.

Discussion followed on the subject of progress toward an international convention for the conservation of pinnipeds, particularly walrus. Dr. Miller gave a brief history of efforts to achieve such an agreement, and stated that while we have not yet concluded an agreement, interest remains high for continuing joint efforts in that direction. It was suggested that it might be more productive to pursue separate agreements on walrus and seals. Mr. Mikhno suggested using the bilateral polar bear convention currently being developed as a model for a walrus convention.

Other pinniped studies:

Mr. J. D. Baker commented that past joint work on fur seal tooth microstructure involving the NMML and Dr. G. A. Klevezal of the Koltzov Institute of Developmental Biology has been very useful. He intends to continue research along these lines and would like to maintain whatever level of involvement is possible with the Koltzov Institute.

Dr. R. V. Miller described joint work of Dr. B. Stewart and Dr. Klevezal on northern elephant seal tooth microstructure. They intend to continue this work at whatever level is possible in 1994 and 1995. "Sea Otters

Dr. J. Bodkin presented an overview of current sea otter research in Alaska. Areas under study include foraging behavior, reproductive biology, survey methodology, population assessment and Dungeness crab/sea otter fisheries interactions. The primary management concern in Alaska is the increasing level of sea otter harvest for subsistence.

Dr. A. M. Burdin discussed sea otter population trends in Russia. The latest estimate for the Commander Islands was 4,500 otters (3,300 on Bering Island and 1,200 on Medny Island). In 1990-91 there was high mortality on the Commander Islands which he attributes to natural density-dependent processes. A 1993 survey on Kronotzkiy Peninsula (Kamchatka) yielded an estimate of 800 otters which is 300 less than the last estimate in 1990. Otters from the northern Kurils and south Kamchatka mix a great deal. The most recent estimate in 1990 was 9,000 otters in this area. Information on numbers of otters in the central and southern Kuril Islands was unavailable. On the Commander Islands, ongoing research is being conducted on food habits, cause of death, genetics, and recruitment of sea otters.

Dr. Boltnev expressed his opinion that the mass die off on the Commander Islands in 1990-91 was perhaps due to density-dependent effects.

Dr. Bodkin summarized the proceedings of the Fourth Russia/U.S. Sea Otter Workshop held in October 1993. Major topics included concern about increased subsistence harvests in Alaska, comparison of sea otter mortality in Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez oil spill with die offs on the Commander Islands, elevated levels of PCBs, DDT/DDE in Aleutian otters, development of a sea otter conservation plan in Alaska, and concern over increased poaching in Russia. Dr. Burkanov presented a brief description of the poaching problem and its rapid growth in the northern Kuril Islands. Other papers presented at the workshop are described in the workshop protocol.

Mr. Mikhno noted that a recent meeting on CITES issues was held in Moscow, during which the otter poaching issue was addressed.

Dr. B. Ballachey summarized studies on the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the Prince William Sound sea otter population. Up to 4,000 otters were estimated to have been killed immediately after the spill. Longer term effects were evident in increased juvenile mortality and an elevated occurrence of dead prime-aged animals found on beaches in the spill area. By 1993 there were indications that the population is recovering.


Dr. A. A. Berzin summarized cooperative Russian-Japanese large whale surveys in the Sea of Okhotsk during 1989-93. It was estimated that 2,700 fin whales and 19,000 minke whales inhabit the Sea of Okhotsk. Right whales were also observed during these surveys. It was also noted that various anthropogenic factors including vessel traffic, oil exploration, and pollution, have adversely affected cetacean populations in Russian waters. Dr. Berzin also remarked on the need for information about recent research conducted in the U.S. Dr. R. L. Brownell presented a short summary of the joint SWFC/TINRO gray whale study. All available catch records from the Chukotka subsistence harvest are being examined to analyze changes in numbers of pregnant females between seasons. Dr. Brownell then outlined a new joint project entitled, "Historical Review and Current Status of North Pacific Large Whales." Because the status of the Okhotsk-Korean gray whale, Okhotsk bowhead whale and western and eastern North Pacific right whale stocks are very poorly known, the following was proposed pending available funding: 1) to conduct a complete review of all commercial whaling activities in the North Pacific; and 2) to investigate study areas in the Okhotsk Sea, and the waters around the Kamchatka Peninsula, northern Kuril Islands and Alaska where systematic monitoring of some of these poorly known stocks may be possible.

Dr. Miller commented on surveys of small cetaceans including harbor porpoise in Washington and Alaska and beluga whales.

Mr. Lowry described a recent summer population estimate of 330 beluga whales for Cook Inlet, Alaska. Beluga whale research efforts in Alaska involve monitoring harvests, collecting biological samples from harvested animals, summer aerial surveys, and the development of a management plan to ensure that harvests do not adversely affect the population.

Dr. Loughlin presented results of killer whale and harbor porpoise censuses in Alaska. In summer 1992, 1,273 harbor porpoise were estimated to be in the Kodiak area and along the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula, and 2,502 harbor porpoise were estimated to inhabit southeast Alaska. Killer whale photo identification studies and preliminary population estimates were conducted in the same areas as well as along the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea. In 1993, effort was made to resight killer whales missing from Prince William Sound since the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Mr. Mikhno noted that Russia is taking part in various conventions directed toward conservation of small cetaceans in the Northern Basin and the Black Sea.


From the U.S. Side:

1. The U.S. side invites one Russian scientist to come to Fairbanks, AK in autumn 1994 or 1995 to conduct joint analyses of data from satellite-tagged spotted seals.

2. Two Russian scientists are invited in the summer of 1994 and possibly 1995, to work in west/central Aleutian Islands, and possibly in the Kuril Islands, on the U.S. RV Alpha Helix. Work will entail collecting sea otter population data, and the study of benthic community ecology and related marine ecosystems.

3. The U.S. side will provide sea otter premolars and canines from specimens of known time of death for evaluation of registering structures.

4. Both sides agree to continue cooperative research on sea otter diving behavior using time-depth recorders and radio transmitters at Bering Island in 1994 or 1995. 5. The U.S. side agrees to support Russian sea otter research through the transfer of excess equipment as available.

6. The U.S side invites 1-2 Russian specialists to participate in studies of nearshore marine benthic communities in relation to sea otters in Glacier Bay, Alaska, in 1994 or 1995. Final dates to be determined early in 1994. 7. The National Biological Survey (NBS) Genetics and Sea Otter Projects propose to collaborate with the Laboratory of Animal Ecology in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia and the Institute of Biological Problems of the North, Magadan, Russian Academy of Sciences, to comparatively study the naturally recolonizing sea otter populations found in Russia with the recolonization process caused by translocation efforts in the U.S. This study will provide significant insight into conservation biology and impacts of translocation methodologies to genetic diversity. Molecular and biochemical genetic markers will be employed to compare genetic variability among the two recolonization types.

8. The U.S. side invites one Russian scientist to participate in aerial surveys of Steller sea lions during mid-June 1994 for 3 weeks.

9. One or two Russian scientists are invited to participate in ship-based surveys of Steller sea lions for 3-4 weeks during late June-early July 1994. 10. One Russian scientist is invited to take part in NMFS/ADF&G aerial surveys of harbor seals for 3 weeks in late summer/early fall, 1994. 11. One or two Russian scientists are invited to participate in NMFS/ADF&G harbor seal satellite telemetry research for 3 weeks during late summer/early fall, 1994. 12. The USFWS invites 2-3 Russian walrus specialists to Alaska for 2-4 weeks during the second quarter of 1995 to participate in the walrus harvest monitoring program and the marking, tagging, and reporting program for harvested walrus.

13. Both sides agree on the need for a meeting to discuss issues and problems related to cooperative walrus population surveys that have been conducted at 5-year intervals, starting in 1975, and the feasibility of a survey in 1995. Alternative indices of population status and trends need to be considered. Details for meeting time and location will be determined by the second quarter of 1994. 14. Both sides agree on the need to initiate discussion of a bilateral walrus conservation agreement. Such an agreement would address issues of mutual concern regarding walrus research, management, and enforcement. Details for an initial meeting time and location will be determined by the second quarter of 1994. 15. The NBS intends to develop a joint U.S./Russian proposal to: A) Examine physiological parameters of walrus condition that may be useful in assessing population status of Pacific Walrus; B) Collect biological samples of genetic materials that would be used to assess subpopulation status of various walrus stocks in the Bering and Chukchi Seas; and C) Continue monitoring summer haulouts of walrus in the Gulf of Anadyr.

16. Both sides agree to continue ongoing collaborative studies on gray whales harvested between 1980 and 1991 during 1994. A joint paper will be prepared.

17. The U.S. tentatively invites 1-2 Russian scientists for up to three weeks to participate in gray whale cow-calf surveys in California waters. Exact dates and work plan will be communicated to the Russian side by February 1994. 18. Both sides agree to initiate cooperative surveys on gray, bowhead, and right whales in the Okhotsk Sea and in the waters around Kamchatka and the northern Kuril Islands. The U.S. side will attempt to obtain funding for these surveys and will communicate information on study plans and availability of funds as soon as possible.

19. Both sides agree to work together to review all available whaling records for North Pacific large cetaceans.

20. Both sides agree to review the history of exploitation of southern hemisphere populations of large whales to better understand the status and rates of increase in North Pacific whale populations.

From the Russian side:

1. Two U.S. specialists are invited to St. Petersburg, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and Moscow in 1994 to review archived records of the Russian-America Company to obtain data on sea otter distribution, abundance and demography, during the hunting period. Exact dates to be determined in early 1994. 2. Two or three U.S. specialists are invited to take part in the Kamchatka Institute of Ecology expedition at Kronotsky Cape to study local sea otter populations and benthic communities in 1994 or 1995. Exact dates to be determined in early 1994. 3. The Russian side will provide tissue samples of sea otters from the Kuril and Commander Islands, and the Kamchatka Peninsula to the U.S. side for contaminants and histopathological analyses.

4. The Russian side agrees to provide information to the U.S. side on fiscal requirements for supporting conservation of sea otter populations in the Kuril and Commander Islands, and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

5. Two or three U.S. specialists are invited to participate in a joint study of sea otter abundance and reproductive biology in 1994 or 1995 at the Commander Islands. More information will be communicated at a later date.

6. Two U.S. specialists are invited to Russia in 1995 to evaluate the effects of petroleum hydrocarbon exposure on sea otters; dates and places of this work will be communicated at a later date.

7. Both sides agreed to hold the next sea otter workshop in 1995 in Kamchatka. Exact dates and other details will be communicated at a later date.

8. If the Russian side is able to conduct a ship-board Steller sea lion survey in the Kuril Islands in summer, 1994, 1 or 2 American specialists will be invited to participate. Information on dates and other details will be communicated at a later date.

9. One or two U.S. scientists are invited to participate in aerial or ship-based surveys of Steller sea lions on Kamchatka and the Commander Islands for up to 3 weeks in summer 1994. Exact dates and other details to be determined at a later date.

10. One or two U.S. scientists are invited to participate in Steller sea lion tag resight efforts on Kamchatka in fall 1994. Dates and other details will be communicated at a later date.

11. Two U.S. specialists are invited to take part in the International Working Group on Northern Fur Seal and Steller Sea Lion Population Dynamics, which is to be held by Kamchatka Branch of TINRO in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy during April 25-29, 1994. 12. One U.S. specialist is tentatively invited to participate in studies of northern fur seal foraging ecology for 2-3 weeks in 1994 on the Commander Islands, contingent on the acquisition of time-depth recorders by the Russian side (dates to be determined later).

13. Two U.S. specialists are invited to participate in satellite tagging of larga seals on the east coast of Kamchatka during July-August 1994. More information will be communicated at a later date.

14. One U.S. specialist is invited to participate in aerial surveys of larga seals in Karaginskiy Bay during April-May 1994. More information will be given in early 1994. 15. One or two U.S. specialists are invited to aid in the collection of food habits data and other samples from larga seals taken in the coastal harvest in Karaginskiy Bay, Kamchatka during May-June 1994. More information will be provided in early 1994. 16. Two or three U.S. specialists are tentatively invited to take part in a planned commercial and scientific cruise to the Bering and perhaps Chukchi Seas to study larga and bearded seals, and perhaps walrus. This cruise would occur in April-May 1994 for 1-2 months, and may be contingent on the American side providing one refueling.

17. If the Russian side is able to arrange a research expedition to study food habits and reproductive biology of larga and bearded seals in Tauskaya Bay, Okhotsk Sea, during 3 weeks in July-August 1994, 2 American specialists will be invited to participate. Details will be provided later.


The protocol of the Fourth International Sea Otter Workshop is attached as an appendix to this protocol.

The next meeting of the Marine Mammal Project will take place in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia in the third quarter of 1995; 8 American representatives are invited to attend. The exact time and other details will be communicated to the American side at least four months before the meeting.

This Protocol has been signed in English and Russian texts, both versions being identical and equally authentic.

For the Russian Side [Signature] V. A. Vladimirov

For the U.S. Side [Signature] R. V. Miller