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Soundings Archive

NMFS Publishes New Marine Mammal SARs
On August 24, 2011, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service published Federal Register notice that it has reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. SARs for marine mammals in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new information. NMFS solicits public comments on draft 2011 SARs. Comments must be received by November 22, 2011.

One noteworthy aspect of these SARs is NMFS's decision to list the Bryde's whale as "strategic" because the average annual human caused mortality and serious injury exceeds PBR.

Alaska Reports
In the Alaska region (waters off Alaska that are under the jurisdiction of the United States), SARs for 35 Alaska stocks (14 'strategic', 21 'non-strategic' including 12 new harbor seal stocks) were updated or added. The following stocks were reviewed and considered for updating for 2011: Steller sea lion (western and eastern stocks), Northern fur seal, harbor seals (12 stocks), spotted seal, bearded seal, ringed seal, ribbon seal, beluga whale (Beaufort Sea, eastern Chukchi Sea, eastern Bering Sea, Bristol Bay, and Cook Inlet stocks), AT1 transient killer whale, harbor porpoise (Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Southeast Alaska stocks), sperm whale, gray whale, humpback whale (western North Pacific and central North Pacific stocks), fin whale, North Pacific right whale, and bowhead whale. Most revisions included updates of abundance and/or mortality estimates. None of the updates resulted in change of status of a stock.

Ice-dependent seal ('ice seals') SARs were updated in 2011 based on the availability of significant new information resulting from the status reviews conducted for these stocks. Atlantic Reports

Atlantic Reports
SARs were revised for 14 Atlantic stocks and four Gulf of Mexico stocks. The updated western Atlantic (U.S. Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Territories in the Caribbean) stocks include all the large whale stocks except sperm whales and blue whales, and those small cetacean and seal species that had fishery interactions. Of these, seven are"strategic" stocks: North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, longfinnedpilot whale, Atlantic white-sided dolphin (which became strategic because the 2002 abundance estimate is outdated), and harbor porpoise.

The updated Gulf of Mexico stocks include Bryde's whale (which has now become 'strategic' because the average annual human caused mortality and serious injury exceeds PBR), pantropical spotted dolphin (not 'strategic'), bottlenose dolphin-bay, sound and estuarine (all stocks "strategic") and bottlenose dolphinoceanic (not 'strategic').

Eight new Atlantic region SARs have been added in 2011. These include reports for five Caribbean species (bottlenose dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, spinner dolphin, short-finned pilot whale, and Cuvier's beaked whale) and three Gulf of Mexico estuarine stocks of bottlenose dolphin that had previously been included in the bottlenose dolphin - bay, sound and estuarine stocks report (Barataria Bay, St. Joseph Bay and Choctawhatchee Bay). Because most of the bottlenose dolphin stock sizes are currently unknown but likely small, and relatively few mortalities and serious injuries would exceed PBR, NMFS considers each of these stocks a 'strategic' stock. All Caribbean region stocks are being considered as strategic stocks due to lack of knowledge of stock size or anthropogenic mortality.

Pacific Reports
In the Pacific region (waters along the west coast of the United States, within waters surrounding the main and Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and within waters surrounding U.S. Territories in the Western Pacific), SARs were revised for nine stocks, including four 'strategic' stocks (Hawaiian monk seal, Southern Resident killer whale, Hawaii Insular false killer whale, and Hawaii Pelagic false killer whale), and five 'non-strategic' stocks (California sea lion, California harbor seal, Northern Oregon/Washington coast harbor porpoise, Washington Inland waters harbor porpoise, and Palmyra Atoll false killer whale). The remaining 66 Pacific region stocks under NMFS jurisdiction were not revised, and information on those stocks can be found in the final 2010 reports (Carretta et al. 2011). General updates are as follows.

Abundance estimates were updated for four stocks: California sea lion, California harbor seal, Hawaiian monk seal, and Southern Resident killer whale. The abundance estimate updates did not change the status of these stocks. The new abundance estimate for California sea lions increased the PBR from 8,511 to 9,200. The new abundance estimate for California harbor seals decreased the PBR from 1,896 to 1,600. PBRs for Hawaiian monk seals and Southern Resident killer whales are unchanged.

Updated information on human-caused mortality is presented for California Sea lions, California harbor seals, two harbor porpoise stocks, and three false killer whale stocks. NMFS received a petition in October 2009 to list the Hawaii insular false killer whale as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A Take Reduction Team was established in 2010 with the goal of reducing mortality and serious injury incidental to commercial fishing in the Hawaii pelagic, Hawaii insular, and Palmyra stocks of false killer whale (75 FR 2853, 19 January 2010). Details on the Take Reduction Plan and its proposed implementation were published in 2011 (76 FR 42082, 18 July 2011). New information on a population viability analysis for the stock of Hawaii Insular false killer whale is presented in the draft 2011 SAR.

  • Click here to read NMFS' Federal Register notice of SARs
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