Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Michelle Ferraro, University of California, Santa Barbara

Class Year: 
2012

Project Title: 

Migration Routes and Corridors of the Eastern North Pacific Stock of the Blue Whale along the U.S. West Coast

Abstract: 

The Eastern North Pacific Stock of the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) which occurs along the Western Coast of the United States, has been considered endangered since 1966 and despite concerted efforts to protect this species through whaling restrictions, their population is currently not increasing. It has been suggested that ship strikes are potentially hindering the recovery of these animals, so it is important to study their migration patterns to identify where they are at risk in order to improve protection for this species. This study analyzes daily state-space modeled positions from satellite telemetry data for 104 whales tagged from 1994 to 2008 in order to determine the migration pathways and areas of high-use for these animals that might overlap with shipping traffic lanes. This analysis revealed that high-use areas of blue whales occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara and San Francisco at latitudes 34°N and 37-38°N and coincided with major shipping lanes. This overlap suggests that adjustments to the shipping lanes in the Santa Barbara Channel and San Francisco Bay region could reduce the risk of ship strikes for these whales and potentially help this population grow in numbers.