[MARMAM] Humpback whale monitoring in Glacier Bay and adjacent waters 2016: Annual progress report

Neilson, Janet janet_neilson at nps.gov
Mon Sep 11 09:56:33 PDT 2017

The following report is now available on the Glacier Bay National Park &
Preserve web site. Please note that this report summarizes findings from
summer *2016* -- stay tuned for our 2017 report.

Neilson, J. L., C. M. Gabriele, and L. F. Taylor-Thomas. 2017. Humpback
whale monitoring in Glacier Bay and adjacent waters 2016: Annual progress
report. Natural Resource Report

NPS/GLBA/NRR—2017/1503. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

etal_2017_GLBA_2016_annual_humpback_whale_report_FINAL.pdf [3.7 MB .PDF]


Migratory humpback whales (*Megaptera novaeangliae*) use southeastern
Alaska as summer feeding habitat, including the waters in and around
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (GBNPP). This report summarizes
GBNPP’s humpback whale monitoring program in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait
(GB-IS) in 2016, the 32nd consecutive year of consistent data collection.
In June-August, we documented 164 unique whales in GB-IS, our lowest count
since 2008. Counts corrected for effort reveal an increasing trend
following a dramatic decline in whale abundance in 2014. We found decreases
in within-year and between-year site fidelity, with over one-third (35.6%)
of our ‘regularly sighted’ whales missing in 2016. We identified only one
mother/calf pair, resulting in the lowest crude birth rate (0.6%) since
monitoring began in 1985, and there was also a notable absence of one and
two-year-old whales. Many of the whales that we observed (13%) appeared to
be abnormally thin. The ‘core group’ at Point Adolphus was not sighted and
many of the whales typically associated with the group were not documented.
In June, whale #441 was found dead marking the end of his 45-year sighting
history (1972-2016), the world’s longest for a humpback whale. There is
mounting evidence that site fidelity, calving, and juvenile return rates in
Glacier Bay-Icy Strait have declined substantially in recent years. Within
Alaska, the long-term, consistent monitoring of humpback whales is limited
to GB-IS, making it difficult to determine over what geographic scale these
changes are occurring.

Janet Neilson
Humpback Whale Monitoring Program
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140
Gustavus, Alaska 99826
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