Fishery Bulletin (1988)


We conducted aerial surveys in September 1984 and September and October 1985 to determine the abundance of harbor porpoise along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. Two observers and a recorder searched along predetermined transect lines at 0.61 and 1.85 km offshore. Strip transect methods were used. A total of 366 groups of harbor porpoise were seen in the 9,500 linear kilometers that were surveyed. Apparent density was significantly affected by sea state and cloud cover. Using observations made during optimal conditions (clear skies and calm seas), apparent harbor porpoise density averaged 0.56 animals km- 2. Behavioral observations from shore and from a helicopter indicated that porpoise are near the surface only 23.9% of the time. To account for this, porpoise density was multiplied by a factor of 3.2, resulting in an adjusted estimate of 1.79 animals km -2. Only a small percentage of the total area inhabited was surveyed under optimal sighting conditions, hence density estimates were not extrapolated to estimate total porpoise abundance. Harbor porpoise density showed similar patterns to those measured from ship surveys, and adjusted aerial estimates are approximately equal to ship estimates.