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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 23:125-132 (2014)  -  DOI:

Fin whale survival and abundance in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada

Christian Ramp1,2,*, Julien Delarue1, Martine Bérubé3, Philip S. Hammond2, Richard Sears1

1Mingan Island Cetacean Study, 285 Green, St. Lambert, Quebec J4P 1T3, Canada
2Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St. Andrews, East Sands, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
3Marine Evolution and Conservation, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, the second largest species in the animal kingdom to have lived on Earth, was heavily targeted during the industrial whaling era. North Atlantic whaling for this species ended in 1987 and it is unclear if the populations are recovering. The stock structure in the North Atlantic is still under debate, but several lines of evidence suggest that fin whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence may form a discrete stock with limited exchange with the rest of the North Atlantic. We applied mark-recapture models to 21 yr of photo-identification data from the Jacques-Cartier Passage to estimate the abundance and, for the first time, a survival rate based on live re-sightings for this stock of fin whales. Using the Cormack-Jolly-Seber model, we estimated a unisex non-calf apparent survival rate of 0.955 (95% CI: 0.936 to 0.969) for the period 1990 to 2010, declining in the last 4 yr of the study. The reduced survivorship was likely caused by a lower site fidelity combined with a higher mortality. The POPAN model yielded a super-population estimate of 328 individuals (95% CI: 306 to 350) for the period 2004 to 2010, and confirmed the negative trend in apparent survival and annual abundance, indicating that the population has not increased since the last large-scale surveys from 1974 and 1997.

KEY WORDS: Fin whale · Mark-recapture · Survival · Abundance · Modeling

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Cite this article as: Ramp C, Delarue J, Bérubé M, Hammond PS, Sears R (2014) Fin whale survival and abundance in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. Endang Species Res 23:125-132.

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