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.
Citation: Ashe E, Wray J, Picard CR, Williams R (2013) Abundance and Survival of Pacific Humpback Whales in a Proposed Critical Habitat Area. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75228. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075228
Financial Disclosure: This research was funded through grants to Cetacealab and Gitga'at First Nation from Julie Walters and Sam Rose, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Cetacean Research Program, Species at Risk Program). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The funding from King Pacific Lodge does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.
PLEASE LINK TO THE SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT (URL goes live after the embargo ends): http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075228
Disclaimer: This press release refers to upcoming articles in PLOS ONE. The releases have been provided by the article authors and/or journal staff. Any opinions expressed in these are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLOS. PLOS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.
About PLOS ONE: PLOS ONE is the first journal of primary research from all areas of science to employ a combination of peer review and post-publication rating and commenting, to maximize the impact of every report it publishes. PLOS ONE is published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS), the open-access publisher whose goal is to make the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource.
All works published in PLOS ONE are Open Access. Everything is immediately available -- to read, download, redistribute, include in databases and otherwise use -- without cost to anyone, anywhere, subject only to the condition that the original authors and source are properly attributed. For more information about PLOS ONE relevant to journalists, bloggers and press officers, including details of our press release process and our embargo policy, see the everyONE blog at http://everyone.plos.org/media.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.