Update on the Gulf of Mexico (Brydeâ€™s) Whale Researchâ€”2018-2019
Southeast Fisheries Science Center
The Gulf of Mexico Brydeâ€™s whale was listed as endangered under the U.S. ESA in April 2019 https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/noaa-lists-gulf-mexico-brydes-whales-endangered. The NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) has a variety of ongoing research projects aimed at improving understanding of these whaleâ€™s distribution, range and habitat use to better document the total geographic range, including 6 passive acoustic studies. The NMFS SWFSC received funds from the Gulf of Mexico RESTORE Act to conduct research on the trophic relationships and improve understanding of the physical, oceanographic, and biological features defining critical habitat for Gulf of Mexico Brydeâ€™s whales. This project began in June of 2017 and will continue through May 2020. It includes three seasonal ship-based surveys to assess the habitat, spatial distribution, and foraging ecology using a multi-faceted approach that integrates visual and acoustic monitoring, environmental sampling, trawling, biopsy sampling for genetic, stable isotope and pollutant analyses, and deployment of animal-borne tags. Models will be developed from the resulting data that will identify key trophic interactions, improve characterization of Brydeâ€™s whale habitat, and provide information to managers that will inform restoration and population recovery activities. The resulting data and analysis will be integrated into the evaluation of critical habitat features for the Gulf of Mexico Brydeâ€™s Whale. A Brydeâ€™s whale stranded off Florida in January 2019 and a full necropsy was conducted. Vessel strike and noise projects are proposed as restoration projects for the Open Ocean Restoration funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.