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Mortality and serious injury determinations for baleen whale stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States, and Canadian eastern seaboards, 2005-2009
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  • Alternative Title:
    Baleen whale stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States, and Canadian eastern seaboards, 2005-2009
  • Description:
    "The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) has developed criteria to evaluate reports of human-caused injury and mortality to large whales. The criteria minimize the identification of false positive human-caused mortalities and serious injuries and provide a minimum value of human impact to whale stocks. Serious injury is defined as an injury that is likely to lead to death. This report describes determinations made for reports received from 2005 - 2009 involving North Atlantic right (Eubalaena glacialis), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), sei (B. borealis), blue (B. musculus), minke (B. acutorostrata), and Bryde's (B. edeni) whales observed along coastal Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of the United States and adjacent Canadian Maritimes. A total of 496 unique large whale events were verified during the period, of which 252 (51%) involved human interactions, 20 (4%) did not involve a human interaction, and for 224 (45%) of the events it was unknown if a human interaction occurred. Of the events involving human interactions, we confirmed 193 unique entanglements and 63 ship strikes. Four events had evidence of both entanglement and ship strike, and are included in the totals for both these event categories. Eighteen (9%) of the entanglements and 28 (44%) of the ship strikes were fatal. Serious injury was sustained in 22 (11%) of the entanglement events and in 2 (3%) of the confirmed ship strikes. Serious injury was prevented due to disentanglement efforts in 30 (16%) entanglement events. Forty-one (21%) of the entanglements and 11 (17%) of the ship strike events did not have adequate documentation to determine if serious injury occurred. Seventy-eight (40%) of the entanglement events and 18 (29%) of the ship strike events were determined to have not caused serious injury or death. We also confirmed a total of 308 mortalities: 46 (15%) due to human interaction, 16 (5%) due to natural causes and 246 (80%) which lacked sufficient evidence to determine cause of death. Minke whales had the greatest number of entanglement mortalities (n=7); humpback whales had the highest number of serious injury events resulting from entanglements (n=12); fin whales had the greatest number of ship strike mortalities (n=9); and right whales had the only serious injuries (n=2) from ship strikes. These mortality and serious injury numbers are minimum counts because of poor detection probabilities and inadequate documentation for the majority of events. Thus, the true level of human impact to these stocks is assumed to be greater than that reported here; the amount greater is unknown"--Abstract.
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