ESR 18:201-217 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00443

Soviet catches of right whales Eubalaena japonica and bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus in the North Pacific Ocean and the Okhotsk Sea

Yulia V. Ivashchenko1,2,*, Phillip J. Clapham1

National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
2School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia

ABSTRACT: Both bowhead Balaena mysticetus and North Pacific (NP) right whales Eubalaena japonica were reduced to low levels by historical whaling. Despite their protected status, it is known that the USSR illegally killed both species in the NP and Okhotsk Sea (OS). Here, we provide revised Soviet catch totals, as well as other new information on the distribution and other details of these catches. Right whale catches were made from 1962 to 1968 in the eastern NP and in 1967 and 1968 in the OS. Our best estimate of total right whale catches is 661, consisting of 529 for the eastern NP (compared to the previously published figure of 372) and 152 for the OS (cf. a previous figure of 136). Catches were distributed in the Bering Sea (BS, 115), eastern Aleutian Islands (28), Gulf of Alaska (GOA, 366), OS (132), and other areas (20). Detailed information on catches of 112 right whales taken in May/June 1963 shows a broad distribution in offshore waters of the GOA, consistent with 19th century historical whaling records. Other major areas in which right whales were caught include south of Kodiak Island, western Bristol Bay (southeastern BS), and the central OS off eastern Sakhalin Island. The best estimate of bowhead whale catches in the OS in 1967 and 1968 is 145 animals, although this is contingent upon certain assumptions regarding species identity. Of these, 79 were killed in the Shantar Islands region and 66 in Shelikhov Bay. The catches of both species primarily involved large mature animals, thus greatly inhibiting recovery of the populations concerned.


KEY WORDS: Whaling · Illegal whaling · USSR · Distribution · Life history


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Cite this article as: Ivashchenko YV, Clapham PJ (2012) Soviet catches of right whales Eubalaena japonica and bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus in the North Pacific Ocean and the Okhotsk Sea. Endang Species Res 18:201-217

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