Aerial survey perspectives on humpback whale resiliency in Maui Nui, Hawaiʻi, in the face of an unprecedented North Pacific marine warming event

Joseph R. Mobley Jr*, Mark H. Deakos, Adam A. Pack, Guilherme Augusto Bortolotto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)
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Abstract

After decades of population growth, the central stock of the North Pacific population of humpback whales, known as the Hawaiʻi Distinct Population Segment (HDPS), was delisted from its endangered status in 2016. At that time, however, an unprecedented heating event, the Pacific Marine Heatwave (PMH) was already underway. The PMH coincided with reports of major declines of sightings of humpback whales, including calves of the year, on both the Hawaiian wintering grounds and the feeding grounds of Southeast Alaska. To examine the resiliency of the HDPS, we conducted aerial surveys of the high-density Maui Nui region immediately following the PMH event in 2019 and 2020, using distance sampling methods identical to those used in an earlier series (1993–2003). Results showed whale densities at or above those seen earlier, with mean density for 2020 highest overall. Crude birth rates (percent groups containing a calf) were similarly comparable to those recorded in the earlier series, with an increase from 2019 to 2020. Overall, results suggest the central North Pacific humpback whale population stock to be resilient in the face of this major climatic event.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-857
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Volume39
Issue number3
Early online date20 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • climate change
  • conservation
  • density
  • distance sampling
  • humpback whales
  • Megaptera novaeangliae
  • Pacific Marine Heatwave (PMH)
  • resilience

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