Biology Letters
Restricted accessMarine biology

Acoustic detection and satellite-tracking leads to discovery of rare concentration of endangered North Pacific right whales

Paul Wade

Paul Wade

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal LaboratorySeattle WA 98115, USA

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Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen

Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen

Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesPO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland

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Kim Shelden

Kim Shelden

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal LaboratorySeattle WA 98115, USA

[email protected]

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,
Jay Barlow

Jay Barlow

NOAA, NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa Jolla CA 92037, USA

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James Carretta

James Carretta

NOAA, NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa Jolla CA 92037, USA

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,
John Durban

John Durban

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal LaboratorySeattle WA 98115, USA

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,
Rick LeDuc

Rick LeDuc

NOAA, NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa Jolla CA 92037, USA

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,
Lisa Munger

Lisa Munger

Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa Jolla CA 92093, USA

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Shannon Rankin

Shannon Rankin

NOAA, NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa Jolla CA 92037, USA

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Allan Sauter

Allan Sauter

Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa Jolla CA 92093, USA

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and
Charles Stinchcomb

Charles Stinchcomb

NOAA, NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa Jolla CA 92037, USA

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    The North Pacific right whale, Eubalaena japonica, is one of the most endangered species of whale in the world. On 10 August 2004, two right whales were located in the Bering Sea using headings to right whale calls provided by directional sonobuoys. A satellite-monitored radio tag attached to one of these whales functioned for 40 days. Over the 40-day period, this whale moved throughout a large part of the southeast Bering Sea shelf, including areas of the outer-shelf where right whales have not been seen in decades. In September, multiple right whales were acoustically located and subsequently sighted by another survey vessel approaching a near-real-time position from the tag. An analysis of photographs confirmed at least 17 individual whales (not including the tagged whales). Genetic analysis of biopsy samples identified 17 individuals: 10 males and 7 females. The discovery of seven females was significant, as only one female had been identified in the past. Genetics also confirmed the presence of at least two calves. Although the future of this population is highly uncertain, the discovery of additional females and calves gives some hope that this most critically endangered of all whale populations may still possess the capacity to recover.

    References


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