SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • whaling;
  • sperm whale;
  • blue whale;
  • fin whale;
  • sei whale;
  • humpback whale;
  • migration;
  • population structure;
  • British Columbia;
  • North Pacific

Abstract

Data recorded from 24,862 whales killed by British Columbia coastal whaling stations between 1908 and 1967 revealed trends in the abundance, sex ratios, age structure, and distribution of sperm (Physeter macrocephalus), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), and blue (Balaenoptera musculus) whales. The catch data were analyzed using annual and monthly mean values. Monthly and annual variation in whaling effort was deduced from accounts of the history of British Columbia coastal whaling, and biases arising from changes in effort were considered in the interpretation of the results. During the later years of whaling (1948-1967), the mean lengths of captured whales declined significantly and pregnancy rates dropped to near zero in fin, sei, and blue whales. Monthly patterns in numbers killed revealed a summer migration of sei and blue whales past Vancouver Island, and confirms anecdotal suggestions that local populations of fin and humpback whales once spent extended periods in the coastal waters of British Columbia. Furthermore, the data strongly suggest that sperm whales mated (April-May) and calved (July-August) in British Columbia's offshore waters. The historic whaling records reveal much about the migratory behavior and distribution of the large whales species as they once were, and may continue to be, in the northeastern Pacific. Verifying the persistence of these trends in the remnant populations is a necessary and logical next step.