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Anthropogenic scarring of western gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus)

Authors

  • Amanda L. Bradford,

    1. School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, P. O. Box 355020, Seattle, Washington 98195-5020, U.S.A.
      E-mail: alb992@u.washington.edu
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  • David W. Weller,

    1. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037-0271, U.S.A.
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  • Yulia V. Ivashchenko,

    1. Kamchatka Branch of Pacific Institute of Geography, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pr. Rybakov, 19-a, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 683024, Russia
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  • Alexander M. Burdin,

    1. Kamchatka Branch of Pacific Institute of Geography, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pr. Rybakov, 19-a, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 683024, Russia and Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Avenue, Seward, Alaska 99664, U.S.A. and University of Alaska Fairbanks, P. O. Box 757500, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, U.S.A.
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  • Robert L. Brownell, Jr

    1. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, 1352 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950, U.S.A.
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 25, Issue 2, 506, Article first published online: 16 April 2009

Abstract

Western gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are critically endangered and anthropogenic threats, such as entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with vessels, may be acting to limit recovery of the population. Thus, examining the magnitude of such anthropogenic interactions using a scar-based approach is warranted. A multi-year (1995–2005) photo-identification study of western gray whales on their feeding ground off northeastern Sakhalin Island, Russia, has resulted in a large data set of digital and film images of 150 individuals. These images were reviewed and scored for anthropogenic scarring by recording the presence of visible scars resulting from fishing gear entanglement and vessel collisions in 21 defined body regions. In total, 20.0% (n= 30) of whales identified during the study period had detectable anthropogenic scarring, with 18.7% (n= 28) determined to have been previously entangled in fishing gear at least once and 2.0% (n= 3) to have survived at least one vessel collision. These estimates are likely to be conservative given the nature of the photo-identification data set, but indicate that male and female western gray whales are subject to anthropogenic interactions. Future studies designed to systematically estimate the frequency and rates of anthropogenic events are needed and would have direct conservation and management implications.

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