First Update; pages 926-934



Protocol of the Thirteenth Working Group Meeting Under Project 02.05-61 "Marine Mammals," of the U.S.-Russia Environmental Agreement, Paratunka, 1995


Done at Paratunka 26 September 1995
Primary source citation: Copy of text provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior



Paratunka, Kamchatka, Russia September 22-26, 1995

The Thirteenth U.S.-Russia Marine Mammal Working Group Meeting was held at Paratunka, Kamchatka, Russia during the period September 22-26, 1995. Representing the United States side were: Robert V. Miller (Delegation Leader), Robert L. Brownell, Jr., Gerald W. Garner, Brendan P. Kelly, Steven G. Kohl and Thomas R. Loughlin.

Representing the Russian side were: Valeriy A. Vladimirov (Delegation Leader), Vsevolod M. Belkovich, Aleksandr M. Burdin, Vladimir N. Burkanov, Yuriy A. Bukhtiyarov, Vladimir V. Vertyankin, Grigoriy K. Kovalev, Igor V. Mikhno, Adolf S. Perlov, Aleksei M. Trukhin, Vladimir I. Chernook (Delegation Members); Stanislav E. Belikov, Alfred A. Berzin, Aleksandr V. Boiko, Vitaliy E. Kovalenko, Sergei I. Kornev, Dmitriy A. Ryazanov, Elena A. Radnayeva, Natalya G. Shevchenko and Evginiy G. Mamayev.

The Meeting Sessions were co-chaired by Robert V. Miller (U.S.) and Valeriy A. Vladimirov (Russia).

A moment of silence was observed in memory of Drs. Lev A. Popov and Vladimir V. Oshurkov (Russia), and Francis H. "Bud" Fay (U.S.), all of whom died in 1993-1994 and were well-known marine mammal specialists and long-time participants in activities under this project.


Drs. Aleksandr Burdin and Robert Brownell presented preliminary results of joint studies of gray and bowhead whales conducted in August 1995 in northeast Sakhalin Island and in the southern Shantar Archipelago. According to TINRO estimates the number of gray whales in the Korea-Okhotsk Sea population is 250 whales. The largest concentration of bowheads observed by TINRO was 72 whales in August 1988, and the Okhotsk population was estimated at about 300 whales. In 1995 Konstantin and Ulbanskiy Bays were surveyed. Gray and bowhead whale tissue samples were taken for genetic research. Conservation of the habitats of these two whale species is extremely important, as they are concentrated in shelf areas where there are plans to exploit mineral, oil and gas resources, build tidal electric power stations, and commercially harvest invertebrates and fish. There is a proposal to establish a marine reserve in the Shantar Archipelago. Compilation of a photographic catalogue for individual identification of gray and bowhead whales has begun; over 500 black-and-white and 300 color photos have been taken. It is planned to continue studies to determine wintering and breeding areas of whales, as well as several population parameters, including age, sex, birth rates, mortality and total abundance estimates.

Dr. Vladimir Burkanov postulated the possible migration of bowhead whales to wintering areas in the northeast part of the Okhotsk Sea.

Dr. Yuriy Bukhtiyarov cited three cases of whale mortality (supposedly right whales) as a result of crab fishing in the Okhotsk Sea over the past five years.

Mr. Grigoriy Kovalev informed the group that all exploitation of mineral resources planned on the continental shelf is to undergo an environmental impact assessment by the Russian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources.

Dr. Stanislav Belikov reported on a new Russian law on protected territories which may also apply to whale conservation.

Dr. Brownell described research on organochlorine contamination in gray whales taken off Lorino during the native subsistence hunt. 20-25 tissue samples were collected by TINRO for toxicological analysis by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. An illegal shipment in 1993 of whale meat from Taiwan to Vladivostok was discussed. Tissue samples were taken from about 230 tons of meat, from which the species was determined to be Bryde's whale. Six individual whales from the shipment were identified. This information was passed on to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by Russia and the U.S. Professor Vsevolod Belkovich reported the establishment of a National Council on Marine Mammals in Russia. The goals of the Council are: coordination of marine mammal studies, determination of priority research themes and topics, and solicitation of financial support for research. Dr. Belkovich also proposed that specialists from all arctic countries combine their efforts in joint studies of the biology and population structure of beluga whales using modern methods of biochemistry, genetics, acoustic matrices and radio tagging. Studies conducted in the White Sea have shown that during the reproductive period beluga whales form large, rather distinctly structured localized groups. This makes it possible to conduct more accurate censuses.



Mr. Kovalev reported briefly on the results of the U.S.-Russia consultative meeting on polar bear and walrus, which took place September 14-19, 1995 in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. Joint principles were developed for the conservation and management of the Chukotka-Alaska population of polar bears. As regards walrus, it was decided to prepare draft agreements on Pacific walrus conservation and management both at the intergovernmental and Native-to-Native levels.

Dr. Bukhtiyarov spoke about Pacific walrus population censuses and dynamics. By 1990 the abundance of this species had reached 250,000. There are some indications of decreasing abundance and changes in important population characteristics, such as increase in number of older females and pup mortality, and decrease in overall fitness. The conjecture that these are due to deterioration of the food base is considered arguable.

Dr. Gerald Garner spoke about utilization of walrus in the United States. Marine mammals in the U.S. are Federal species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for Pacific walrus, polar bears and sea otters, while the National Marine Fisheries Service oversees all other marine mammals. Only the coastal natives of Alaska have the right to hunt walrus. Authority to regulate subsistence take of marine mammals is dependent on the population in question being declared depleted. Dr. Garner said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a number of documents on Pacific walrus management and research. The annual take of walrus is currently no more than 6,000-8,000, including struck and lost. In 1994 a summary report on the results of walrus tagging was completed, in which it was noted that 95% of harvested walrus are tagged in accordance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service walrus marking and tagging program. Dr. Garner also described some of the results of work carried out under a U.S. National Biological Service program developed 1 1/2 years ago. Feeding ecology as well as certain physiological parameters were studied with the help of satellite and VHF transmitters deployed on eight walruses.

Dr. Brendan Kelly spoke about studies of Alaska walrus conducted in Dr. Fay's laboratory. Up to 42% of all walruses taken during native hunts are lost; of these at least 55% die of wounds. Under the supervision of Dr. Francis Fay the laboratory developed a population dynamic model for Pacific walrus between 1930-1985, which includes several important parameters, including increase in base abundance, reproductive rates, natural mortality rates and number of animals taken for subsistence. There are, however, insufficient reliable data on the survival and mortality of young walrus, especially in the Chukchi Sea. Dr. Kelly also spoke about other walrus studies continued by his laboratory. These include: research on changes in growth rate over specific periods of time, experiments using artificially-constructed walrus stomachs to study the rate of digestion of various foods, and taxonomic analysis of a large quantity of walrus skulls from around the world.

Mr. Vitaliy Kovalenko presented information on summer season monitoring of walrus haulouts in Chukotka conducted annually since 1983. He reported data on the average and maximum walrus abundance on haulouts on Arakamchechen Island and Rudder Spit between 1990 and 1995. Since 1983 there has been a considerable decrease in walrus abundance on all Chukotka haulouts. During the period 1990-1995 it varied insignificantly, indicating a possible stabilization of abundance. In 1990 the maximum number of walrus on Arakamchechen Island was 10,350; on Rudder Spit --3,000-4,000. In 1995 (according to data as of September 15), these numbers were 6,500 and 400, respectively. Females comprise about 1% of the overall number on Arakemchechen Island, and about 19% of the animals on Rudder Spit.

Mr. Aleksandr Boiko reported KamchatRybVod data on the overall decrease in numbers of walrus by 12,000-15,000 animals as compared with the mid-1980s. This means a twofold decline in abundance, although in the past four years the number has increased slightly to a total of 7,500. HARBOR SEALS

Dr. Burkanov reported the results of research conducted by KamchatRybVod over the past two years. Unfortunately, only a small amount of information was collected on harbor seal distribution and abundance on Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands. Genetic samples were taken from animals on Bering Island for analysis by the Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla.

It was proposed to continue joint work on harbor seals with the University of Texas and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. As has already been noted, there has been no monitoring of ice seal abundance in the Russian Far East due to decreased harvest of this species. Monitoring studies need to be reinstated in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas.

Through a grant from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Dr. Burdin began research in 1995 on abundance and feeding dynamics of harbor seals on Bering Island. The feeding habits of harbor seals were examined during the salmon run in Sarannoye Lake. Analysis of the total catch showed that 4-5% of the salmon had wounds from harbor seals.

Mr. Vladimir Vertyankin reported the results of harbor seal surveys on Kamchatka and the Commander Islands: 300 animals inhabit Kronotskiy Nature Reserve, while 2,500 live on the Commander Islands. Southern Kamchatka is populated by a small number of harbor seals migrating from the Kuril Islands. The abundance of those populations has been relatively stable for many years.

Dr. Thomas Loughlin reported the results of harbor seal surveys conducted in Alaska by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Alaska is so large that the state was divided into four parts and each part was surveyed once in four years. A correction coefficient for seals in the water (and therefore not counted) was established for different substratum rookery types. The number of harbor seals observed in Alaska was more than 51,000, and with the correction coefficient the total was calculated at 79,000. The Exxon Valdez oil spill has accelerated the continuing decline of harbor seal abundance in the Gulf of Alaska.

Mr. Vertyankin reported the results of a joint survey and radio tagging of harbor seals in Orca Bay, Alaska in 1995. The number of harbor seals in that area was estimated at 350-400. A total of 25 harbor seals were captured and radio transmitter tags attached. Tag scanning results are currently being analyzed.

Dr. Kelly presented information on University of Alaska efforts to clarify the causes of decline of harbor seal abundance in Alaska. It is suspected that the decline results from a decreased food base. Body condition and blood composition were examined. A considerable decrease in survival rates of yearling harbor seals was observed.


Dr. Kelly spoke about ringed seal studies in the Beaufort Sea using radio and acoustic tags. Approximately 10,000 dives were analyzed. It was established that females mainly dove to depths greater than 100 meters, while the most frequent dive depth for males was less than 50 meters.

Dr. Bukhtiyarov reported the results of work conducted during the period April 4-18, 1995 in the Okhotsk Sea in the area of the Koni Peninsula from the ice-breaker "Krasin." The number and density of ice seals there was considerably lower than in 1968. Professor Belkovich presented information about the possibility of conducting seal surveys using acoustic devices during mating, when the vocalization activity of the animals increases.


Dr. Burkanov reported the results of a survey and tagging of Steller sea lions from a ship in the Kuril Islands in June-July 1995. After a sharp decline in the 1980s, the number of Steller sea lions in the Kuril Islands has stabilized, and the number of pups has increased to 400. A total of 300 pups were tagged. Approximately 60 Steller sea lions tagged in 1989-1991 were observed. Genetic samples were collected on four rookeries. Further, 100 pups on the southeast rookery of Medniy Island and 50 on Cape Kozlov (Kamchatka) were tagged.

Dr. Loughlin presented the results of Steller sea lion research in Alaska. A 1994 census showed a decline in the western coastal population and a slight increase in the eastern population to the southeast of Kodiak Island. Dr. Loughlin presented an overview of Steller sea lion research carried out by American scientists. He summarized the results of radio tagging of Steller sea lions on the Kuril islands conducted jointly with Dr. Adolf Perlov in 1991. These studies showed that the feeding behavior of Steller sea lions in the Kuril Islands and Alaska is quite similar.

Professor N. Suzuki spoke about the problem of Steller sea lion interactions with commercial fishing in Japan. Over the past ten years about 4,000 animals have either been taken or have died from entanglement in nets. Japan has no precise system for censusing marine mammals or monitoring their deaths. In 1994 the Government of Japan allocated funds for such studies. New regulations on taking of Steller sea lions have been issued, under which the annual harvest quota is not to exceed 114 animals.

Dr. Aleksandr Boltnev summarized the results of a 1994 Steller sea lion shipboard survey conducted by KamchatNIRO in Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands.

Dr. Perlov suggested that excessive harvest of Steller sea lions could be a possible cause of the current decline in its abundance.

Mr. Evgeniy Mamayev presented information on long-term studies of Steller sea lions on their reproductive rookeries on Medniy Island. Pictographic identification methods for subadult males revealed a high level of their rotation on the rookery. Analysis of the recovery of tags from young sea lions at the age of 1-3 years showed a difference in the time periods when each age group arrives at its natal rookery; this time difference was estimated to be approximately a month.


Dr. Aleksei Trukhin spoke about the results of fur seal research on Tyuleniy Island. Since 1987 its abundance has been at a low stable level, and there is currently no reason to assume it will increase in the future. There are five groups on the rookery, each physically and reproductively separate from the others. The reproductive isolation rate of the animals in these groups is 94% for females and 100% for males, which approximates the level for the population as a whole.

Dr. Boltnev reported on fur seal research conducted by the Marine Mammal Laboratory of KamchatNIRO. Fur seal abundance on each of the four rookeries of the Commander Islands remains stable. He also presented data on maternal investment in newborn pups of both sexes. The weight and physical condition of pups are probably related to the food resources affecting them through their mothers. Histological materials on the reproductive condition of males of various ages are currently being processed.

Dr. Loughlin reported the results of northern fur seal studies conducted by the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. Research on St. Paul Island revealed a considerable decrease in the number of harem bulls, although the overall number of bulls remained at previous levels. In the last two years the total number of fur seals decreased slightly on St. George and stabilized on St. Paul Island. Several incidents of fur seal poaching on St. George Island were reported in 1993-1994. The 1994 subsistence take of bachelor bulls by Alaska natives was 1,616 on St. Paul and 161 on St. George Island.

Dr. Vladimirov distributed copies of the compendium "Results of Northern Fur Seal Research in Russia in 1993-1994" to the Working Group participants.


Dr. Burdin summarized the results of the Fifth U.S.-Russia Sea Otter Workshop, held in Kamchatka September 7-12, 1995. Information was presented on sea otter research carried out in Russia and the U.S. in recent years, and plans for future joint work were laid out. A Workshop Protocol was signed in the Russian and English languages and copies given to both sides.

Dr. Kelly described efforts by the Alaska Sea Otter Commission to involve the Alaska native people in sea otter research and management. He has drafted management plans for sea otters in six regions of Alaska. The plans include harvest limits and other conservation measures. Also planned is the collection of biological samples from harvested sea otters and a study of sea otter foraging behavior using acoustic tags.


Dr. Burkanov reported the results of work carried out by Kamchatrybvod on marine mammals deaths in traps during drift fishing for salmon by Japanese vessels in the Russian Economic Zone in the vicinity of eastern Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands' shores. In 1994 and 1995 KamchatRybVod observers and inspectors recorded the following number of animals deaths in nets: Dolphins - 478 and 340; Seals - 18 and 30; Seabirds - 36,845 and 25,418, respectively for each of the two years. Dr. Burkanov estimates that the number of deaths was underreported by 10%.

Dr. Vladimir Chernook described a new technique for ice seal aerial surveys using video recording in both visual sight and infrared spectra, photography, and satellite information on ice conditions, with computer processing of data obtained. This technique allows both adults and pups to be counted, and the survey results are available immediately. The mobile combination of instruments is easily installed in any airplane, and this technique lowers the cost of aerial work.

Dr. Mikhail Zasypkin reported the results of biochemical genetic research on pinnipeds carried out since 1979 at the Institute of the Biological Problems of the North in Magadan. These approaches and techniques permit analysis of the population-genetic structure of harbor seal and walrus stocks, and of biochemical evolution in pinnipeds.


Mr. Igor Mikhno reviewed the procedures for submitting applications to conduct marine mammal studies using foreign vessels and aircraft in Russian waters, and gave the American side a sample form.



(The Russian side will consider the possibility of the following work in 1996-1997 subject to available technical and financial support):


Continuation of abundance and habitat surveys of bowhead and gray whales in the Okhotsk Sea begun in 1995, and continuation of photocatalogue compilation in 1996-1997 with the participation of 1-2 American specialists.

Development of a joint program of arctic beluga whale population studies and consolidation of efforts by scientists of different countries with the possibility of exchange of specialists to conduct joint field studies and process collected materials. (This proposal will be discussed in detail at the next Working Group meeting.)


Studies of walrus biology on Kamchatka haulouts with the participation of 1-2 American specialists.

The Russian side invites one U.S. National Biological Service database specialist to visit the Magadan Division of TINRO for one week during the 4th quarter of 1995 to assist the Russian side in creation of a data base for Pacific walrus.

The Russian side invites 1-2 American specialists for studies of the effects of tourism on walrus behavior and abundance distribution on Chukotka Peninsula haulouts.

Harbor Seals:

Joint studies on the harbor seal ecology on the Commander Islands in 1996 or 1997 with 3-4 American specialist participation.

Ice Seals:

Joint studies will be conducted on the reproductive ecology of ice seals in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas, together with tagging. Also: estimation of newborn walrus pup mortality from Russian icebreakers in 1997 with the participation of 1-2 American specialists.

Studies will be carried out on larga seal behavior during salmon spawning, and also on larga and bearded seal reproductive success in the summer-fall of 1996 or 1997 with the participation of 1-2 American specialists.

Steller Sea Lions:

Studies will be conducted on Steller sea lions in the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka in June-July 1996, including tagging, with the participation of one American specialist.

Migration studies of young Steller sea lions in Kamchatka and the Commander Islands will be carried out using and radio and satellite tags in 1996-1997, with the participation of 2-3 American specialists.

Sea Otters:

Consider inviting one U.S. specialist in 1996 to complete efforts in researching the history of the sea otter harvest in Russian and Alaskan waters in the 18th-20th centuries.

Consider inviting 2-3 U.S. specialists in 1996 for joint field research on Bering Island involving marking and the collection of biological materials from living and deceased sea otters.

Consider inviting 2-3 U.S. specialists in 1997 to participate in an expedition to study benthic communities and the sea otter population on the Kronotskiy Peninsula.

Consider inviting 2-3 U.S. specialists to participate in joint research of benthic communities of the Commander Islands in 1996 and in 1997. Consider inviting 2-3 U.S. specialists in 1997 to participate in an expedition studying the influence of sea otters on benthic communities of the Commander Islands.

Consider inviting 1-2 U.S. specialists to participate in a sea otter vessel survey in Kamchatka and the northern Kurils in 1996 if a vessel is available.

A request that the U.S. side examine the possibility of conducting oil product origin and identification analysis when Russian sea otter habitat is contaminated by oil products.

Conduct genetic research of sea otter tissue using electrophoresis. The Russian side expresses its interest in receiving appropriate samples from sea otters of the U.S. population.


(The following proposals should be considered tentative, subject to the availability of funds.)


The U.S. side invites 1-2 Russian scientists for up to 3 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 1995. Both sides agree to continue working together to review all available commercial whaling records for all north Pacific large cetaceans. This project includes both coastal and pelagic operations.

Both sides agree to continue the beluga whale genetic analyses begun in 1994. They agree to expand the scope of the work by Russian scientists obtaining specimen materials from as many parts of the range of the beluga whale as possible.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites 2 Russian specialists to Alaska for 2 weeks during the second quarter of 1996 to observe the Walrus Harvest Monitoring Program and the Marking, Tagging, and Reporting Program for Native harvested walrus.

Both sides agree on the need to continue discussion toward a bilateral walrus conservation agreement. Details of a subsequent meeting in Alaska will be determined by the second quarter of 1996. Native-to-Native meetings in Chukotka and Alaska should be encouraged.

Both sides agree that it is desirable to begin monitoring studies of walrus behavior and abundance at haulout sites using standardized methodology. Therefore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites up to 2 Russian specialists having experience in monitoring numbers of walrus on haulout sites to participate in counts and behavioral studies in Alaska during May 1996 or 1997. Walrus aerial survey coordination should continue in the event it becomes a possibility in 1998 or later.

Both sides desire to establish a joint U.S.-Russia data base on the Pacific walrus that will include count and composition data from Russian and U.S. haulouts, joint U.S.-Russian aerial survey data, and data on the U.S. and Russian harvest. As part of this effort, the U.S. National Biological Service invites 2 Russian specialists to Alaska for 2 weeks during the second quarter of 1996 to participate in a joint synthesis of data to be included in the joint U.S.-Russia data base.

The U.S. side invites one Russian walrus specialist to visit the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the 1st quarter 1996 to collaborate on the analysis and reporting of data pertaining to Pacific walrus morphometries. It is anticipated that the work will require 4-5 days to complete.


The two sides agree to continue age determination studies of pinnipeds and evaluation layering rates in cementum and dentine. Scientists from the Institute of Developmental Biology (Academy of Sciences) and Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute will continue their joint work with exchange of scientists to be determined by mutual agreement.

Both sides agree to continue joint studies on Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, harbor and larga seals in Alaska and the Russian Far East, whenever possible. Specific activities will be determined and arranged by mutual agreement throughout the year. These studies may include acquisition of specimen materials for physiological, genetic, age and growth or other studies, as necessary.

Harbor Seals:

The U.S. side invites 1-2 Russian scientists for 2 weeks to participate in studies with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to assess foraging ecology of harbor seals using satellite telemetry in and adjacent to Prince William Sound, Alaska, during 1996-1997. The U.S. side also invites one Russian scientist during August-September 1996 for 2 weeks to conduct joint studies on harbor seal aerial survey correction factor in Alaska.

Ice Seals:

The U.S. side invites one Russian specialist for 2-3 weeks in 1996 or 1997 to Fairbanks, Alaska, to work with Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists to complete analyses of spotted seal satellite tag data. They will begin development of publications from these data. Exact dates for this work will be decided later.

Steller Sea Lions:

The U.S. side invites 1-2 Russian scientists to participate in ship-based research to investigate Steller sea lion physiology for 3-4 weeks during June-July 1996. The number of scientists and specific dates will be determined later once an appropriate vessel is obtained.

Fur Seals:

The U.S. side invites 1-2 Russian scientists to participate in northern fur seal research on the Pribilof Islands for 3-4 weeks during August-September 1996 or 1997. Dates and duration will be established in subsequent communications.

The U.S. side invites one Russian scientist to continue joint studies to analyze milk samples from lactating female fur seals for cooperative studies between the Commander and Pribilof Islands.

Sea Otters:

Joint proposal: Continue to exchange sea otter tissues for comparative studies of genetics, contaminants, and other aspects of natural history with maximum provision of life history data for the subject animals (gender, age, etc.).

Consider inviting 2-3 Russian specialists to participate in studies of sea otters and benthic ecosystems in southeast Alaska in 1996 or 1997. Continue cooperative research on sea otter diving behavior using time depth recorders and radio transmitters at the Commander Islands in 1996 or 1997. Consider hosting 1 or 2 Russian specialists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for approximately 1 month in 1996 for familiarization with tagging and capture techniques and research efforts.

Invite one Russian specialist to participate in the continuation of studies of historical records of sea otter hunting in Russian and U.S. waters, and to participate in comparative studies of sea otter population dynamics and natural history.

The American side proposed that the next (14th) meeting of the Marine Mammal Working Group take place in the United States in the 2nd quarter of 1997. Signed at Paratunka, Kamchatka, Russia on September 27, 1995 in the English and Russian languages, both texts being equally authentic.

For the American Side: (signed) Robert V. Miller Project 02.05-61 Leader

For the Russian Side: (signed) Valeriy A. Vladimirov Project 02.05-61 Leader