Endangered Right Whales Filmed in Bering Sea at Winter for First Time Ever

Critically endangered North Pacific right whales have been spotted in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska in winter for the first time.

The sighting was recorded by fisherman Josh Trosvig, who has sailed in the region for decades.

It was later confirmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who said Trosvig's images were the first visual evidence of the endangered whales in the Bering Sea during winter.

"I took the time to take these pictures and video because the encounter was unique to me. I have watched many thousands of whales feeding in the 35 years I have sailed the North Pacific and Bering, yet none like this," Trosvig, who captains the cod fishing vessel Cerulean, told NOAA.

"It is important to have a good relationship between industry and the federal and state agencies that monitor the oceans. Hopefully this sighting will add to the knowledge database pertaining to these rare cetaceans," he said.

North Pacific right whales are considered a Red List Critically Endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Both NOAA and the IUCN have estimated there are around 30 North Pacific Right Whales left in the wild. The IUCN also expressed concerns over the lack of sightings of calves of the species.

Trosvig sent his footage of the whales to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game resource management office at Dutch Harbour who coordinated a response with NOAA.

The video was taken in the narrow straights of the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, northeast of the Aleutian Island of Unimak, NOAA said.

The administration said that while audio recordings of the whales had been taken in the region before, this was the first visual sighting of them during the winter months.

"To my knowledge, this is the first sighting of North Pacific right whales in winter in the Bering Sea," NOAA Fisheries scientist Jessica Crance said. "We have acoustic detections, or sound recordings, of whale calls during January, but no actual sightings from this time of year."

NOAA said it was now working with the U.S. Coast Guard to issue broadcasts requesting mariners in the region proceed with caution to help protect the whales.

"We're also are asking mariners to report any North Pacific right whale sightings as they transit Unimak Pass, which is near where the whales were last seen," NOAA said in a statement.

The Unimak pass where the whales were spotted is the main shipping lane between the Pacific Northwest and China, Japan, and South Korea, NOAA said.

Stock image of a right whale
Stock image of a right whale. North Pacific Right Whales are considered a Red List Critically Endangered species by the IUCN. korinoxe/Getty Images