ESR 28:61-76 (2015)  -  DOI:

Seven years of blue and fin whale call abundance in the Southern California Bight

Ana Širović1,*, Ally Rice1, Emily Chou1, John A. Hildebrand1, Sean M. Wiggins1, Marie A. Roch2

1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0205, USA
2San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-7720, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Blue whales Balaenoptera musculus and fin whales B. physalus are common inhabitants of the Southern California Bight (SCB), but little is known about the spatial and temporal variability of their use of this area. To study their distribution in the SCB, high-frequency acoustic recording packages were intermittently deployed at 16 locations across the SCB from 2006 to 2012. Presence of blue whale B calls and fin whale 20 Hz calls was determined using 2 types of automatic detection methods, i.e. spectrogram correlation and acoustic energy detection, respectively. Blue whale B calls were generally detected between June and January, with a peak in September, with an overall total of over 3 million detections. Fin whale 20 Hz calls, measured via the fin whale call index, were present year-round, with the highest values between September and December, with a peak in November. Blue whale calls were more common at coastal sites and near the northern Channel Islands, while the fin whale call index was highest in the central and southern areas of the SCB, indicating a possible difference in habitat preferences of the 2 species in this area. Across years, a peak in blue whale call detections occurred in 2008, with minima in 2006 and 2007, but there was no long-term trend. There was an increase in the fin whale call index during this period. These trends are consistent with visual survey estimates for both species in Southern California, providing evidence that passive acoustics can be a powerful tool to monitor population trends for these endangered species.

KEY WORDS: Blue whales · Fin whales · Acoustic monitoring · Southern California Bight

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Cite this article as: Širović A, Rice A, Chou E, Hildebrand JA, Wiggins SM, Roch MA (2015) Seven years of blue and fin whale call abundance in the Southern California Bight. Endang Species Res 28:61-76.

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