[MARMAM] New publication on gray whale body condition

Adrianne Akmajian marine.ecologist at makah.com
Mon Dec 6 08:31:33 PST 2021

Dear Colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to share our new publication, "Body
condition of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) feeding on the Pacific
Coast reflects local and basin­wide environmental drivers and biological
parameters" published in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management,
volume 22.

The paper and supplementary materials are Open Access and free to download
here: https://archive.iwc.int/?r=18973

A small subset of the Eastern North Pacific gray whale population does not
make the full migration from wintering grounds in Mexico to feeding grounds
in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas and instead feed along the Pacific
Coast between northern California and northern British Columbia. This group
is known as the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG). We evaluated the body
condition of PCFG whales observed in northern Washington and along
Vancouver Island to evaluate how body condition of gray whales changes
within and between years. We found that PCFG gray whales improve in body
condition through the feeding season and at varying rates by year and that
they have variability in their body condition at the start and end of each
feeding season. The inclusion of environmental factors, particularly the
Pacific Decadal Oscillation, drastically improved the ability of regression
models to predict average whale body condition for a given year as compared
to models without environmental factors included. A comparison of our
findings to a previously published study on body condition of gray whales
at Sakhalin Island, Russia highlight the differences between these two
distinct feeding groups. Whales feeding at Sakhalin Island gain body
condition quicker and more predictably to a good body condition by the end
of the feeding season than the whales we studied in the PCFG. This method
of visual photographic assessment may be an effective method for monitoring
the effects of climate change on PCFG gray whales.

Adrianne Akmajian
Marine Ecologist, Makah Fisheries Management
marine.ecologist at makah.com
(360) 645-3079 (Office)
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