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The objectives of IWC-POWER

Long-term objectives

IWC-POWER is intended to be a long-term programme enabling the status of large whale populations in the North Pacific to be assessed and, where necessary, provide information to develop conservation and management action.  The full text of the agreed long term objective can be found below.

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Medium-term objectives (6-10 years)

After a comprehensive review of the available information and an identification of the knowledge gaps, a number of priority species and topics were identified for the medium term.  In terms of obtaining direct abundance estimates, highest priority was allocated to fin, sei and, in the Okhotsk Sea, North Pacific right whales.  If suitable acoustic equipment can be found and deployed, sperm whales could also be a high priority.  Other species were identified as being high priority for opportunistically collecting biopsy and photo-id data during directed cruises including blue whales and humpback whales.  A summary can be found below.

 

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Initial priority

Rationale

Blue whale

 

Low direct, high opportunistic

Depletion level suggests high priority (i.e. highly depleted based on catch history), but feasibility of addressing outstanding issues in short term is low. Continued photo-id work part of US national programme. Little information on stock structure and movements.

Bryde’s whale

 

High direct, high opportunistic

Depletion levels suggest low priority (i.e. low depletion given catch history). Consideration on western side already dealt with by the Committee under RMP where a national programme exists. Telemetry may be possible given available vessel. Stock structure relatively poorly understood in central and eastern North Pacific.

Common minke whale

 

Low direct,  high opportunistic

Depletion levels suggest low priority on east. Consideration on western side already dealt with by the Committee under RMP where national programmes exist. However, if Okhotsk Sea covered for other priority species (e.g. right whales) then would provide valuable information incl. biopsy. Telemetry studies priority for stock structure and may be possible with this vessel although this species is more difficult so a separate study may be more appropriate. Choice of ’acceptable’ conditions for survey an issue for multi-species surveys if this species included.

Fin whale

 

High direct, moderate opportunistic

Depletion levels suggest high priority. Given major genetic analysis on east then biopsy sampling on offshore east and west high priority to improve overall understanding of stock structure. Co-ordination with US national work in Bering Sea needed. Examination of existing data and coverage of uncovered areas needed to determine survey strategies.

Humpback whale

 

Low direct,  high opportunistic

Good information already available from a multi-national photo-id/biopsy programme (SPLASH). Existing programmes sufficient. Opportunistic sightings during cruises may identify new ‘SPLASH’ areas. Feasibility of collecting biopsy and photo-id data opportunistically high.

Right whale

 

Moderate-high direct,

high opportunistic

Depletion level suggests high priority, but feasibility of addressing outstanding issues in short term is low. Poor knowledge of stock structure. Continued photo-id work part of US national programme. Feasibility of collecting biopsy and photo-id data opportunistically high. New survey in Sea of Okhotsk has high feasibility to obtain good abundance data provided appropriate permits can be obtained from the Russian Federation. Targeted surveys required.

Sei whale

 

High direct, high opportunistic

High priority for in-depth assessment. High feasibility of obtaining abundance estimates and biopsy samples in well-designed surveys. Cover new areas based on available information.

Sperm whale

 

High direct, moderate opportunistic

High priority given lack of good information on status but high historic catches. Obtaining abundance estimates for sperm whales can be problematic due to its very long dive times and other issues but combined acoustic/visual surveys have been successful. Feasibility depends on equipment.

 

 

Short-term objectives (up to about 2015)

The short term aim is to cover most of the central and eastern North Pacific (the least studied areas) by 2015. The information obtained on distribution and abundance from these initial surveys, as well as practical information on successful techniques and necessary improvements, is essential for designing the medium-term plan.