[MARMAM] New paper: Okhotsk Sea bowhead whales

Yulia.Ivashchenko at noaa.gov Yulia.Ivashchenko at noaa.gov
Tue Jan 26 13:08:56 PST 2010

The following review paper was just published:

Ivashchenko, Y.V. & Clapham, P.J.  2010.  Bowhead whales, Balaena
mysticetus, in the Okhotsk Sea.  Mammal Review 40: 65-89.


1. Little is known about the endangered population of bowhead whales,
Balaena mysticetus, in the Okhotsk Sea (OS).  Here, we review existing
information about this stock, including much material published in

2. Whaling for OS bowheads began around 1846, was pursued intensively
for two decades, and continued sporadically until about 1913.  Beginning
in 1967, whalers from the USSR killed bowheads illegally, although the
number of whales taken remains unknown.  Estimates of the
pre-exploitation population size have ranged from 3,000 to 20,000
whales, but all such estimates are based upon untested assumptions and
incomplete data.  

3. Information on historical and current distribution of bowheads comes
from whaling records (notably Townsend 1935) and from modern (notably
Russian/Soviet) marine mammal surveys.  Little is known about winter
distribution.  In spring and summer, known bowhead concentrations occur
in Shelikhov Bay and at Shantar.  Although historical whaling data show
bowheads in Shelikhov Bay in summer and early autumn, recent sightings
there have not been later than June.  However, extensive 19th century
catches were made over much of the northern OS, and the present range
and habitat use of the population is probably broader than existing data
suggest.  There is equivocal evidence for age or maturational class
segregation between Shantar and Shelikhov Bay; the former hosts immature
whales and lactating females, and the latter hosts adults.

4. Genetic data indicate that the OS bowhead stock is separate from the
Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort population, but that the two populations share a
common ancestry.  There is no evidence that bowheads ever leave the OS.  

5. Russian observers have put the current size of the OS stock in the
low hundreds, but this is not based on quantitative analysis.  Overall,
the OS bowhead population is very likely to be relatively small; it did
not recover from intensive whaling in the 19th century, and the illegal
Soviet catches of the 1960s have further set back its recovery. 
Dedicated surveys and other research are required to assess the status
and conservation needs of the population.

Reprints are available from Wiley Interscience:

Or from: yulia.ivashchenko at noaa.gov

Yulia Ivashchenko
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Seattle, WA, USA

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