ESR 24:125-135 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00595

Depredating sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska: local habitat use and long distance movements across putative population boundaries

J. M. Straley1,*, G. S. Schorr2, A. M. Thode3, J. Calambokidis2, C. R. Lunsford4, E. M. Chenoweth1, V. M. O’Connell5, R. D. Andrews6

1University of Alaska Southeast, Sitka, Alaska 99835, USA
2Cascadia Research Collective, Olympia, Washington 98501, USA
3Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
4Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute, NOAA Fisheries, Juneau, Alaska 99801, USA
5Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Sitka, Alaska 99835, USA
6School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, Alaska 99664, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Satellite tags were attached to 10 sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus (1 whale was tagged in 2 different years) to determine the movements of sperm whales involved in removal of sablefish from longline fishing gear in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). Tags transmitted from 3 to 34 d (median = 22) in 2007 and 7 to 158 d (median = 45) in 2009. Seven whales stayed in the GOA; all were associating with fishing vessels along the slope. Two whales headed south in June shortly after being tagged; one reached the inner third of the Sea of Cortez; the other’s last location was offshore Mexico at 14°N. A third whale stayed in the GOA until October and then headed south, reaching central Baja, Mexico, 158 d after tagging. The whales that travelled to lower latitudes followed no pattern in timing of departure, and at least 2 had different destinations. All whales passed through the California Current without stopping and did not travel to Hawaii; both are areas with known concentrations of sperm whales. Whales travelled faster when south of 56°N than when foraging in the GOA (median rate of median horizontal movement = 5.4 [range:4.1 to 5.5] and 1.3 [range:0.6 to 2.5] km h-1, respectively). Tagged sperm whales primarily travelled over the slope, but one spent considerable time over the ocean basin. Information on the timing and movement patterns of sperm whales may provide a means for fishermen to avoid fishing at whale hot spots, potentially reducing interactions between whales and fishermen.


KEY WORDS: Sperm whales · Satellite tags · Shelf · Slope · Ocean basin · Rate of horizontal movement · Demersal longlines · Depredation


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Cite this article as: Straley JM, Schorr GS, Thode AM, Calambokidis J and others (2014) Depredating sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska: local habitat use and long distance movements across putative population boundaries. Endang Species Res 24:125-135. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00595

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