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Title: Unreported catches, impact of whaling and current status of blue whales in the South European Atlantic Shelf.
Author: Aguilar, Àlex
Borrell Thió, Assumpció
Keywords: Balenes
Plataforma continental
Europa del Sud
Atlàntic, Oceà
Continental shelf
Southern Europe
Atlantic Ocean
Issue Date: 31-Mar-2022
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Abstract: The North Atlantic blue whale was depleted by modern whaling and it is still considered to be highly endangered. Despite its protection in 1954, catches continued in the South European Atlantic Shelf (SEAS) region and immediately adjacent waters until 1979. We compiled catches and investigate abundance trends in the region using original data from whaling (1921-1985) and scientific surveys around the last years of exploitation (1981-1987). The struck and lost rate was estimated at 3.2% for sperm whales and 2.3% for baleen whales. The compiled records include 60 catches, with an additional 1-2 blue whales likely struck and lost. From these, 29 individuals had been correctly reported as blue whales but 31 were mislabelled as fin whales. After correcting for loss rates, the number of blue whales killed in the region was estimated at 61 in 55 years (1.12 individuals/year). The data from the 1950s shows some oversized fin whales but it is unclear whether they are due to an incorrect reporting of species or to incorrect measurements, so it cannot be discarded that the actual number of blue whales caught was slightly higher than estimated. Mean body length of reported blue whales was lower than in higher latitudes of the North Atlantic, probably reflecting geographical stratification with higher proportion of immatures in the SEAS. The ratio between catches or sightings of blue whales and those of fin whales was 5.9% in the southern part of the SEAS previous to exploitation, it declined to 0.02- 0.18% in the 1920s, and increased thereafter up to 1.6% in the 1980-1990s. Taking as reference the population size of fin whales in the SEAS, that of blue whales at the end of the 1980s can be guessed to be at ca337-497 individuals. Considering accepted population estimates in other areas as well as the observed rates of increase, current abundance is thought to be over a thousand whales in the SEAs and at in the order of 4000-5000 individuals for the whole eastern North Atlantic basin.
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It is part of: Scientific Reports, 2022, vol. 12, num. 5491, p. 1-12
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ISSN: 2045-2322
Appears in Collections:Articles publicats en revistes (Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals)

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