ESR 25:249-263 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00641

Distribution of Soviet catches of sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus in the North Pacific

Yulia V. Ivashchenko1,*, Robert L. Brownell Jr.2, Phillip J. Clapham1

1National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
2Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 1352 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: From 1948 to 1979, the USSR conducted extensive illegal whaling worldwide. Data from the North Pacific (NP) were analyzed to correct falsified International Whaling Commission catch records and to investigate the distribution of sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus (NP catch = 157680). Information was available on the distribution of 123264 sperm whale catches. Among a number of areas defined by the Soviet whalers, the largest catches were in the 3 main regions: 31395 in the Eastern Region (ER), 29518 in the Central Region (CR), and 19313 in the Western Region (WR); an additional 23090 catches were made at the Kuril land stations. Other areas with substantial catches included the Aleutians (5945) and Commander Islands (1448), the Bering Sea (3170), Olyutorsky Bay (3094), and other parts of the pelagic NP (6049). Four main areas of concentration included: a large pelagic area (30-50°N) in the ER, including the Gulf of Alaska and western coast of North America; the northeastern and southwestern CR; and the southern Kurils. Some of the distribution was similar to 19th century catches, notably in the ‘Japan Ground’ (in the pelagic western Pacific) and the ‘Coast of Japan Ground’. Many females were caught in Olyutorsky Bay and around the Commander Islands. There was also a division in catch composition at Amchitka Pass (Aleutians), with family groups to the west and mature males to the east. The extensive illegal catches of females removed a significant portion of the reproductively mature population, which likely continues to impact recovery of NP sperm whales today.


KEY WORDS: Sperm whale · Physeter macrocephalus · North Pacific · Whaling · Illegal whaling · USSR · Distribution · International Whaling Commission


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Cite this article as: Ivashchenko YV, Brownell RL Jr, Clapham PJ (2014) Distribution of Soviet catches of sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus in the North Pacific. Endang Species Res 25:249-263. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00641

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