[MARMAM] Humpback whale monitoring in Glacier Bay & Icy Strait, Alaska - 2017 annual progress report

Neilson, Janet janet_neilson at nps.gov
Mon Jun 11 12:07:21 PDT 2018

The following report is now available, summarizing our 33rd consecutive
year of humpback whale population monitoring in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait
in southeastern Alaska:

Neilson, J. L., C. M. Gabriele, and L. F. Taylor-Thomas. 2018. Humpback
whale monitoring in Glacier Bay and adjacent waters 2017: Annual progress
report. Natural Resource Report

NPS/GLBA/NRR—2018/1660. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/DownloadFile/602012 [2.8 MB]

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 2017, our 33rd consecutive year of consistent data collection in
June-August. We documented 128 unique whales, our lowest count since 2003,
and effort-corrected counts also revealed steep decreases. By all measures,
humpback whale abundance has declined >40% since peaking in 2013. We
documented decreases in within-year and between-year site fidelity, with
44% (29 of 66) of whales exhibiting long-term (2004-2013) fidelity to GB-IS
interrupting their regular annual return in 2014-2017. This was the fourth
consecutive year of calving anomalies, with only two mother/calf pairs in
GB-IS (one lost her calf by mid-July), resulting in the second lowest crude
birth rate (1.6%) since 1985. We documented no known juveniles (ages 1-4),
indicating a possible decline in recruitment, as well as many abnormally
thin whales (24%). This was the first year that a reduced vessel speed
limit (13 kts) was not warranted in lower GB. The Point Adolphus ‘core
group’ was not sighted and the fate of many group members is unknown.
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 declines in abundance, site fidelity, calving, recruitment, and
physical condition are occurring, however there is evidence that declines
may be occurring throughout the central North Pacific.

For reports from past years, go to

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