2020-2021 Health Report for the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas Bowhead Whale
Raphaela Stimmelmayr, John Citta, Kayla Scheimreif, Megan Ferguson, Geof H. Givens, Amy Willoughby, Amelia Brower, Andy Von Duyke, Gay Sheffield, Brian Person, Todd Sformo, Leandra de Sousa and Robert Suydam
At the 2016 IWC Scientific Committee meeting, it was agreed that an annual or biannual report on the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas (BCB) bowhead whale stock would be submitted that summarizes health-related data from multiple disciplines. This summary is intended to provide ancillary but pertinent information for informing management recommendations and tracking the status of the BCB bowhead stock. This report is the fourth of the series and summarizes general information on population indices, whale health, and hunter observations of bowhead whales for 2020 and 2021. We provide new information on 12 indices: (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; (7) body condition; (8) whale lice burden of landed whales; (9) proportion of landed whales showing evidence of feeding; (10) proportion of landed whales with injuries consistent with line entanglement, killer whale attacks and/or vessel collisions; (11) non-harvest related mortality of bowhead whales; (12) pathological findings from postmortem examinations of landed whales; and (13) hunter observations. These indices suggest that the bowhead population remains robust and that the subsistence harvest is sustainable. We will continue to monitor these indices in the coming years.