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US, Russia to begin Bering Sea seal survey

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Scientists from Russia and the United States will use high resolution photography and thermal sensors in an ambitious project to count ice seals in the Bering Sea.

Three of the species — ringed, bearded and ribbon seals — have been recommended for listing as threated or endangered or are undergoing a status review.

The study beginning this week also will target spotted seals. All four depend on sea ice for giving birth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says spring is the best time for surveys because seals gather on ice to give birth to pups, breed and molt.

A NOAA announcement says thermal sensors will locate seals and high-resolution digital cameras will capture images from altitudes of 1,000 feet — higher than a human eye can identify species.