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Preserving the past: digitization of Soviet whale watches and sightings from the North Pacific

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Ivashchenko, Y.V. and Clapham, P.J.

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International Whaling Commission


In 1948, the USSR began a 30-year campaign of illegal whaling that is estimated to have resulted in almost 180,000 unreported catches worldwide. The true catch totals have now been reconstructed for the North Pacific using Soviet whaling industry reports discovered in Russian archives. However, while the catch revisions have provided a broad overview of Soviet whaling, the reports contain data on the dates, locations and other characteristics of thousands of catches and sightings from across the North Pacific. In addition, there are many records in reports from non-whaling scientific surveys, including some conducted in months rarely covered by whaling data. Together, these data have the potential to prove useful in studies of the distribution, status and population structure of large whales in the North Pacific, and to assist in the planning of future surveys. In a project supported by the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), we have extracted such data from the hard copy
paper reports and entered them into an electronic database. Here, we describe the database, which contains 33,197 records (representing a minimum of 92,871 whales identified to species) digitized from the original hard copy files. The database will shortly be made freely available to NPRB and IWC on an open-access basis.

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