Southeast Alaska North


All southeast Alaska inside waters from southern Chatham Strait to Cape Spencer. It includes Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound, Stephens Passage, Lynn Canal, Icy Strait and Glacier Bay, Peril Strait, Sitka Sound and adjacent outside waters especially Davison Bay on the outside of Chichagof Island, Shelikof Bay on the west side of Kruzof Island, and the curve of reefs extending from the southern shore of Kruzof Island ‘around’ the shores of Sitka Sound.

ICA Criteria

#1) Endangered, threatened or vulnerable species
#2) Feeding concentration
#5) Species diversity


This area is one of the prime humpback whale feeding grounds in the North Pacific with hundreds of whales utilizing the region each summer. Whales feed on both herring and zooplankton, shifting specific locations with their prey. The confluences of the various sounds, straits and passages typically host the highest concentrations of whales.

This area is also is a key feeding ground of the Alaska resident killer whales particularly at the mouths of salmon rivers and streams.

This area designates feeding grounds of the distinct ‘southern feeding group’ of gray whales that ranges from northern California to southeast Alaska in summer (rather than migrate to northern seas). These are the only known habitual feeding grounds of this population in southeast Alaska. This ICA also includes a portion of the migration corridor of gray whales making their way from Mexico to the Arctic.

This is a remarkably rich area for marine mammals, with other commonly sighted cetaceans including transient (Bigg’s) killer whales and Dall’s porpoise.


Key Species

Canada (SARA) USA (ESA)
Northern Resident Killer Whales Threatened N/A
Humpback whales Threatened Endangered
Resident killer whales N/A None
Gray whales Special Concern None


Jan Straley



Published Papers and Books

Baker, C.S., Straley, J.M., and Perry, A. 1992. Population characteristics of individually identified humpback whales in southeastern Alaska: Summer and fall 1986. Fisheries Bulletin, U.S. 90: 429-437.

Calambokidis, J., Darling, J.D., Deeke, V. Gerrin, P., Gosho, M., Megill, W., Tombach, C.M., Goley, D., Toropova, C., and Gisborne, B. 2002. Abundance, range and movements of a feeding aggregation of gray whales (Eschritius robustus) from California to southeast Alaska in 1998. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 4(3): 267-271.

Calambokidis, J., Steiger, G.H., Straley, J.M., Herman, L.M., Cerchio, S., Salden, D.R., Urbán, R.J., Jacobsen, J. K., von Ziegesar, O., Balcomb, K. C., Gabriele, C. M., Dahlheim, M. E., Uchida, S., Ellis, G., Miyamura, Y., Ladron de Guevara P., Yamaguchi, M., Sata, F., Mizroch, S. A., Schlender, L., Rasmussen, K., Barlow J., and Quinn, T. J. 2001. Movements and population structure of humpback whales in the North Pacific. Mar. Mam. Sci. 17: 769–974.

Dahlheim M.E, Schulman-Janiger, A., Black, N., Ternullo, R., Ellifrit, D., and Balcomb K.C. 2008. Eastern temperate North Pacific offshore killer whales (Orcinus orca): occurrence, movements, and insights into feeding ecology. Mar. Mamm. Sci 24:719–7.

Ford, J.K.B., Durban, J.W., Ellis, G.M., Towers, J.R., Pilkington, J.F., Barrett-Lennard, L.B., and Andrews, R.D. 2012. New insights into the northward migration route of gray whales between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska. Mar. Mamm. Sci. (In Press).

Jurasz, C.M., and Jurasz, V.P. 1979. Feeding modes of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangilae) in southeast Alaska. Scientific Reports of the Whales Research Institute 31: 69-83.

Sharpe, F.A. 2002. Social foraging of the southeast Alaskan humpback whale, Megaptera novaengliae. PhD, Simon Frasier University, Vancouver, BC Dissertation Abstracts International Part B: Science and Engineering [Diss. Abst. Int. Pt. B – Sci. & Eng.]. Vol. 62, no. 69, p. 3872. Mar 2002.

Straley, J.M. 1990. Fall and winter occurrence of humpback whales(Megaptera novaeangliae) in southeastern Alaska. Rep. Int. Whaling Comm. (Special Issue 12): 319-24.

Straley, J.M. 1994. Seasonal characteristics of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in southeastern Alaska. MSc Thesis, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, 121 pp.

Straley, J.M., Quinn II, T.J. and Gabriele, C.M. 2009. Assessment of mark-recapture models to estimate the abundance of a humpback whale feeding aggregation in Southeast Alaska. Journal of Biogeography 36. pp 427-438.

Witteveen, B.H., Worthy, G.A.J., and Roth, J.D. 2009. Tracing migratory movements of breeding North Pacific humpback whales using stable isotope analysis. Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 393: 173–183, 2009.

Technical Reports

Calambokidis, J., Falcone, E.A., Quinn, T.J., Burdin, A.M., Clapham, P.J., Ford, J.K.B., Gabriele, C.M., LeDuc, R., Mattila, D., Rojas-Bracho, L., Straley, J.M., Taylor, B.L., Urban, R.J., Weller, D., Witteveen, B.H., Wynne, K., Yamaguchi, M., Bendlin, A., Camacho, D., Flynn, K., Havron, A., Huggins J., and Maloney, N. 2008. SPLASH: Structure of populations, levels of abundance and status of humpback whales in the North Pacific. Final report for Contract AB133F-03-RP-00078. 57 pp.

Gabriele, C.M., Doherty, J.L. and Andrew III, A.G. 1997. Population characteristics of humpback whales in Glacier Bay and adjacent waters: 1997. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. P. O. Box 140, Gustavus, AK 99826.

Straley, J.M., C.M. Gabriele, and C.S. Baker. 1995. Seasonal characteristics of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in southeastern Alaska. Proceeding of the Third Glacier Bay Science Symposium. 1993. pp 229-238. D. Engstrom (Ed.) National Park Service, Anchorage, AK.


Humpback Whales of Southeastern Alaska

Gray whale migration

Other – Special Local Knowledge

Straley, J. M. 2012. Sitka AK. (