Science Advisory Report 2011/078
Information relevant to the assessment of critical habitat for Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales in British Columbia
- Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Sei Whales and North Pacific Right Whales were severely depleted by commercial whaling in the North Pacific. Hunting of Right Whales commenced in the late 1800s and of the other species in the early 1900s and continued until 1967 in Canadian Pacific waters and into the 1970s in other parts of the North Pacific.
- Until 2002, BC whaling data from 1908 to 1967 and a few incidental sightings collected by the British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) and NOAA Platforms of Opportunity Program (NOAA POP) comprised the only basis of information about these species in British Columbia (BC) waters
- The occurrence of Fin Whales, Blue Whales and Sei Whales in BC waters has been confirmed since 2002 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) ship-based visual surveys and acoustic monitoring. However, visual surveys (2002-2010) did not afford equal and systematic coverage of all BC waters.
- The function of habitat in BC for these species is mainly for foraging. These highly migratory species are thought to migrate from lower latitude breeding areas to higher latitude productive waters to forage.
- BC waters may serve additional functions for Fin Whales because this species appears to occupy northern latitudes year-round.
- BC whaling data indicate much of the whaling effort was focused west of the continental shelf off Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands), areas that have received little DFO ship survey effort to date.
- The development of a remote acoustic monitoring network that monitors selected areas along BC’s continental shelf and west of the continental shelf is still relatively new and data are as yet limited.
- Current information derived from ship surveys, acoustic monitoring and photo-identification (photo-ID) is insufficient to identify important habitat areas for these cetacean species in BC waters.
- Dedicated line transect surveys, acoustic monitoring, photo-ID and satellite tagging studies, particularly on the continental slope and west of the continental shelf, will be required to better understand seasonal distribution of these species in order to identify Critical Habitat.
This Science Advisory Report is from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, National Marine Mammal Peer Review Committee meeting, October 17 to 21, 2011. Additional publications from this process will be posted as they become available on the DFO Science Advisory Schedule.
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