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Pacific humpback whale abundance higher in British Columbia

Date:
September 11, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Humpback whale populations are on the rise in the coastal fjords of British Columbia, doubling in size from 2004 to 2011.
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Researchers estimated abundance of Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using photo-identification surveillance of identifiable adults.
Credit: Rob Williams, Creative Commons Attribution License

Humpback whale populations are on the rise in the coastal fjords of British Columbia, doubling in size from 2004 to 2011, according to results published September 18 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Erin Ashe from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews and colleagues from other institutions.

Researchers estimated abundance of Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using photo-identification surveillance of identifiable adults. They found that the number of humpback whales in the region increased each year, and doubled from 2004 to 2011, resulting in a total of 137 whales in 2011. The survey was conducted year-round, but abundance was estimated only during the summer months of July to September, when the migrating whale population is largest.

The survey focused on summer feeding regions in the coastal fjords that serve as a pit stop for whales to refuel between migrations. Migrating whales can travel as far as Hawaii or Japan and go several months without feeding. Whatever the whales are doing seems to be working.

The authors estimated that survivorship, the average probability of an adult whale surviving from one year to the next is among the highest reported anywhere for this species. During this critical refueling stage in these waters, the whales are more vulnerable to environmental stressors, such as those potentially created by increasing tourism and industrial development in the region.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Erin Ashe, Janie Wray, Christopher R. Picard, Rob Williams. Abundance and Survival of Pacific Humpback Whales in a Proposed Critical Habitat Area. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e75228 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075228

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Public Library of Science. "Pacific humpback whale abundance higher in British Columbia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911184718.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, September 11). Pacific humpback whale abundance higher in British Columbia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911184718.htm
Public Library of Science. "Pacific humpback whale abundance higher in British Columbia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911184718.htm (accessed July 1, 2015).

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