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This year's Scientific Committee meeting reiterated the need to conduct an In-depth Assessment for minke whales in the western North Pacific, with a focus on bycatch levels and the status of a specific sub-population or stock, known as J-stock. This month, members of the Committee are meeting in Greece for a small, technical workshop focused on the computer modelling needed to complete this work.

The In-depth Assessment is considering three different hypotheses for the structure of the western North Pacific minke population:

  • two individual stocks, known as J and O.
  • three individual stocks, J, O and Y, with some overlap between Y and J
  • four individual stocks, J,O, Y and P, with some overlap between Y and J, and anadditional P stock found only in coastal waters. 

Understanding the structure of these stocks and any overlap between them is vital to understanding
their status (whether the population is stable, increasing or declining), and the impact of threats such as bycatch.

Conditioning of computer trials for the first and second hypothesis is already complete. The results of genetic sampling led to the development of the third hypothesis and the August workshop will conduct work to condition this additional hypothesis and progress the wider computer modelling component of the In-depth Assessment. 

Computer modelling is vital in cetacean science and conservation. For largely unseen and migratory animals like most whale species, it is extremely difficult to establish any definitive facts and figures. Computer models can test the widest possible variety of plausible scenarios, different theories regarding stock structure, their boundaries and movements across those boundaries. 

The workshop runs from 14 - 19 August and the group conducting the In-depth Assessment hope to complete their work and report results at next year's Scientific Committee meeting.

Read reports of previous Scientific Committee meetings.