Bowhead whales have been seen regularly during Russian surveys in the northeast and southwest Sea of Okhotsk. Berzin et al. (1991) reported bowhead sightings every year from 1982 through 1990, except 1985, with up to 72 whales apparently seen on one day. Doroshenko and Ivannikov (2003) reported 48 bowhead whales sighted during a not especially intensive survey conducted in 2001.
However, there are no reliable estimates of abundance. Berzin et al. (1990) believed the individuals in the southwest OkhotskSea to number at least 250–300 animals, while Vladimirov (1994) estimated the subpopulation at 300–400 whales for the entire OkhotskSea. These values appear to be based primarily on the numbers seen, without evaluation of effective search effort. The proportion of the subpopulation that comprises mature animals is unknown. A value of 44% has been estimated for the Bering-Chukchi-BeaufortSea stock of bowhead whales. The absence of bowhead sightings on any of the Japanese-Russian systematic surveys of cetaceans in the OkhotskSea (referred to above) tends to suggest that the subpopulation is small.
The subpopulation was subject to intensive commercial whaling during the short period 1852–1860 and apparently had been depleted by 1860, although some catching continued until 1900. Woodby and Botkin (1993) estimated a minimum initial subpopulation size of about 3,000 based on catch records. In the late 1960s, Soviet ship-based whalers took an unknown number of bowheads in the OkhotskSea
illegally (Doroshenko 1996). The subpopulation thus appears to still be at a small fraction of its pre-whaling abundance, and there is no direct information to assess whether or not the subpopulation is increasing.