2018-2019 Health report for the Bering-Chuckchi-Beaufort Seas bowhead whales – preliminary findings
Raphaela Stimmelmayr, J. Craig George, Janet Clarke, Megan Ferguson, Amy Willoughby, Amelia Brower, Gay Sheffield, Kate Stafford, Geof Givens, Andy Von Duyke, Todd Sformo, Brian Person, Leandra de Sousa, and Robert Suydam
International Whaling Commission
At the 2016 IWC Scientific Committee meeting, it was agreed that an annual or bi-annual report on the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas (BCB) bowhead whale stock would be submitted that summarizes various health-related data. This summary is intended to be helpful for providing ancillary but pertinent information for informing management recommendations and tracking the status of the BCB stock. This report is the 3nd of the series and summarizes general information on population indices, whale health and hunter observations of bowhead whales for 2018 and 2019. We provide new information on (1) population size and trends, (2) adult survival rate, (3) acoustic index of relative abundance of migrating whales, (4) distribution and migration, (5) calf production (aerial surveys), (6) pregnancy rates of landed adult females, (6) body condition and whale lice burden of landed whales, (7) proportion of landed whales showing evidence of feeding, (8) proportion of landed whales with injuries consistent with line entanglement, killer whale attacks and/or ship strikes, (9) non-harvest related mortality of bowhead whales, (10) pathological findings from postmortem examinations of landed whales, and (11) hunter observations. The various indices suggest that the bowhead population remains robust and the subsistence harvest sustainable. We will continue to monitor these indices in the coming years.