Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

CSCAPE: Collaborative Survey of Cetacean Abundance and the Pelagic Ecosystem.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Karin Forney
    NOAA Fisheries
Start Date: June 03, 2005
End Date: December 15, 2007

CSCAPE is a collaboration between the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Marine Sanctuary Program to assess the abundance and distribution of marine mammals and to characterize the pelagic ecosystem off the U.S. West Coast.

The primary objective is to conduct a marine mammal assessment survey out to a distance of approximately 300 nautical miles, with additional fine-scale surveys within the NMS boundaries.

A secondary objective is to characterize the pelagic ecosystem within the study area, through the collection of underway and station-based biological and oceanographic data, seabird studies, and acoustic sampling.

A final objective is to conduct biopsy sampling and photo-identification studies of marine mammal species of special interest.

Summary to Date

In June 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began a research effort to identify and count marine mammals and seabirds along the west coast of the United States while also investigating the ocean ecosystem. This scientific endeavor, known as the Collaborative Survey of Cetacean Abundance and the Pelagic Ecosystem (CSCAPE) will survey up to 300-miles along the continental shelf and deep waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

Researchers will gather information on the number and location of marine mammals and seabirds, conduct biopsy and photo-documentation of whales and dolphins, collect zooplankton and jellyfish samples, and conduct oceanographic investigations. Scientists will pay particular attention to the waters within the National Marine Sanctuaries as part of a long-term ecosystem-monitoring program.

CSCAPE is a continuation of a series of cruises by NOAA Fisheries Service to study west coast marine mammals, begun in 1991. CSCAPE will continue its research from July through December, concentrating first on areas of the other West coast marine sanctuaries of Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay, and then surveying the entire marine region within 300 miles of the coast.

The preliminary observations below are from 3 June to 20 July, 2005 off the coast of Washinton, Oregon and Northern California.

Read CSCAPE Weekly Cruise reports at:

You can compare the 2005 CSCAPE findings with data from the previous years collected by NOAA Coastal Marine Program at and by Cascadia Research at

Monitoring Trends

  • Over 15 species of cetacean (whales and dolphins) and 40 species of bird were recorded. As in past years, the most abundant species coastwide was the short-beaked common dolphin, and the most abundant whale was the fin whale. Off Oregon and Washington, Dall's porpoise was the most abundant species.
  • Within the national marine sacntuaries, humpback whales were the most common whale species and Pacific white-sided dolphins were the most common delphinid.
  • Blue whales have been less abundant along the U.S. West Coast in 2001 and 2005 than during the 1990s, whereas estimated humpback whale abundance is greater than during all previous assessments through 2002.
  • One single sperm whale was encountered over Juan de Fuca Canyon. It is the first sighting of sperm whales in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary since it was designated in 1994. 14 additional sperm whales were observed off the coast of Humboldt County, Ca.


Monitoring the abundance and trends of marine mammals, and aspects of their ecosystem is essential for managing marine mammal populations and the fisheries that interact with them. CSCAPE will help to establish a baseline and monitor the health and well-being of our marine sanctuaries.

Study Parameters

  • Range/Biogeography
  • Habitat association
  • Habitat
  • Trophic association
  • Biomass
  • Abundance
  • Distribution
  • Density
  • Age structure
  • Stock assessment
  • Genetics
  • Temperature
  • Currents
  • Density
  • Salinity

Study Methods


Line-transect survey methods are used to collect abundance data. Daily watch for cetaceans are maintained on the flying bridge by 6 mammal observers during daylight hours while the ship travels at a speed of 10 knots). Each observer works in 2-hour rotations, manning each of the following 3 stations on the flying bridge for 40 minutes: a port side 25x150 binocular station, a center-line data recorder position, and a starboard 25x150 binocular station. An “independent observer” may keep a separate watch of animals sighted during the cetacean survey operations, to be compared later with the observer team’s data.

Logging of Data - A log of observation conditions, watch effort, sightings and other required information is entered into a computer, hooked up to the ship's GPS (for course, speed and position information) and SCS (for weather and heading information).

Breaking Trackline - On sighting a marine mammal school or other feature of biological interest, the Cruise Leader or marine mammal observer team on watch may request that the vessel be maneuvered to approach the school or feature for investigation. When the ship approaches a school of dolphins, the observers will make independent estimates of school size.

Biopsy and photographic - Operations may commence from the bow, based on directions from the Cruise Leader or Senior Marine Mammal Observers. In some instances, the Cruise Leader requests the deployment of a small boat for biopsy, photographic or other operations.

It may occasionally be necessary to divert the ship's course from the established trackline during regular effort due to glare or adverse sea conditions. Under these circumstances, the ship may divert up to 30 degrees from the established course. This deviation may continue until the ship is 5 nm from the trackline, at which point the ship should turn back toward the trackline.

Dive-Interval Studies – Sightings of deep-diving whales prompt dive-interval studies, at the discretion of the Cruise Leader. The collection of dive-interval data is necessary to produce sightability correction factors for those species that spend a considerable amount of time diving. This will help determine how long these species of whales stay under water, for more accurate population estimates. The observer team on watch starts the dive-interval computer program, and requests that the vessel approach the whales targeted for this experiment.

Seabird Survey - Visual surveys of seabirds are conducted from the flying bridge during daylight hours by two seabird observers. A log of sighting conditions, effort, sightings and other required information are entered into a computer interfaced with the ship’s GPS (for course, speed and position information) and SCS (for weather and heading information). Seabird observers will use handheld and 25x150 binoculars.

Biopsy Sampling - Biopsy samples for genetic analyses of cetaceans is collected on an opportunistic basis. The animals to be sampled are approached by the research vessel during normal survey operations, approach the vessel on their own or are approached by a small boat. Samples are collected, from animals within 10 m to 30 m of the bow of the vessel, using a dart fired from a crossbow or rifle.

Photography - Photographs of marine mammals are taken on an opportunistic basis. These will be used to study social behavior and movement patterns of identified individuals, and to study geographic variation.

Collection of Fish - Fish are collected on an opportunistic using trolling gear while under way or with hook-and-line gear while stationary. Fish are measured, sexed, and stomach contents is examined and recorded.

Collection of Jellyfish Samples - Jellyfish and other gelatinous plankton is collected opportunistically for leatherback turtle dietary studies. Jellyfish are collected during scheduled bongo tows or from the small boat. Samples are frozen for future stable isotopic analysis.

Acoustics - A scientific EK-60 depth sounder is operated continuously at 38, 120 and 200 KHz and is be interfaced to a data acquisition system to estimate micronekton biomass between 0 and 500 m.

Sonobuoys - Sonobuoys may be deployed periodically from either the McArthur II or a small boat on an opportunistic.

Oceanography - Oceanographic sampling done while underway during the day and include three XBT drops per day, at 0900, 1200 and 1500 hours local ship time, or as requested by the Cruise Leader. Surface water sample for chlorophyll a analysis and a bucket temperature will be taken at 0900, 1200, 1500 and 1800 hours local ship time daily. Thermosalinograph Sampling run for continuous measurement of surface water temperature and salinity.


CTD Stations - Weather permitting, between one and two CTD stations are occupied each night: an evening cast after the end of effort (unless the ship will resume effort within 10 nm the next morning), and a pre-dawn cast. CTD data and seawater samples are collected using a SeaBird 9/11+ CTD with rosette and Niskin bottles fitted with silicone tubing and o-rings. All casts are to 1000 m, with the descent rate at 30m/min for the first 100m of the cast, then 60m/min after that, including the upcast between bottles. Cast times are subject to change since sunrise and sunset will vary during the cruise. Additional CTD stations may be conducted in areas of special interest.

Pre-daylight Cast - The morning cast (1000m) l begin approximately one and one-half hours prior to sunrise. Niskin bottle water samples will be collected at seven light depths and five additional standard depths, between the surface and 1000m. These depths are determined just prior to each cast. From each cast, chlorophyll samples (to 200 m) and salinity samples (2 to 6 samples per cast, at least 500 and 1000 m or bottom) are collected and processed on board. The 265ml chlorophyll samples are filtered onto GF/F filters, placed in 10ml of 90% acetone, refrigerated for 24 hours, and then analyzed on a Turner Designs model 10AU field fluorometer. Nutrient samples (0 - 500 m) are collected, frozen, and stored on board. Primary productivity will be measured by radioactively labeled carbon uptake methods. Seven samples taken from Niskin bottles #1 through #7 are spiked with 14C, incubated on deck for 24 hours, filtered and stored for later analysis at the SWFSC.

Post Effort Cast - An evening CTD cast, to 1000m, may be conducted, after effort, if the ship will move >10 nm overnight. Bottle samples are collected from 12 standard depths (0, 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, 140, 170, 200, 500, 1000 meters). Samples for chlorophyll, nutrients and salts are taken as listed above (except for the addition of four salinity samples taken from every other evening cast).

Bongo Tow - An oblique bongo tow are conducted after the post-effort CTD in darkness. If no evening CTD is conducted, the tow occurs a minimum of one-hour after sunset. Both nets are 505 micron mesh and are towed for 15 minutes (45 minute station time), to a depth of 200m (wire out 300m on starboard hydro winch). The samples is preserved in formalin or frozen (isotope analysis), labeled and stored. The second cod end of the bongo (port side) is only attached once per week for isotope samples

Samples for Leatherback Turtle Diet Isotope Project – The gelatinous contents of the second cod end of the bongo is placed in whirl-paks, labeled, and stored frozen for later stable isotopic analysis.

Sediment Samplings – A Van Veen sampler may be deployed at designated stations. These samples are generally taken after the evening CTD and net tow. Surficial sediment material is removed with scoops from one sampler, homogenized, and apportioned to jars for chemical and physical testing at laboratories ashore. Chemical samples are frozen until the end of the cruise. Samples for physical testing is be kept refrigerated.

Figures and Images

Planned large-scale transect grid for CSCAPE 2005, extending 300 nm offshore

Fine-scale transect lines within the three central California National Marine Sanctuaries: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay.

Two humpback whales feeding off the coast of Washington. Photo:Annie Douglas, NOAA. Photo taken under NMFS Scientific Research Permit Nos. 774-1714-00 and 540-1502-00.

Breaching orca whale. Photo: Michael Richlen. Photo taken under NMFS Scientific Research Permit Nos. 774-1714-00 and 540-1502-00.

Two Pacific white sided dolphins. Photo: Michael Richlen. Photo taken under NMFS Scientific Research Permit Nos. 774-1714-00 and 540-1502-00.