Many species of baleen whales were hunted to near extinction in the Southern Hemisphere. The recovery of these populations will be affected by the availability of krill, a major dietary component, in the Southern Ocean. We combine a novel energetics model for baleen whales with a state dependent foraging model to explore the impacts of an expanding krill fishery on baleen whales. We parameterize the model for blue whales, but with simple modifications it could be applied to most baleen whales. We predict that an expanding fishery will have a small but significant impact on the blue whale population through decreased birth rates. However, spreading the catch limit throughout the range of krill can reduce these effects. In addition, whales may be able to reduce these impacts through adaptive changes in foraging behavior. The relationship between krill abundance and blue whale foraging and reproductive success is nonlinear, such that larger reductions in krill biomass, potentially following a loss of sea ice due to climate change, could have a much larger negative impact on the recovery of blue whales.
Wiedenmann, J., K.A. Cresswell, J.A. Goldbogen, J. Potvin, and M. Mangel. 2011. Exploring the Effects of Reductions in Krill Biomass in the Southern Ocean on Blue Whales Using a State-Dependent Foraging Model. Ecological Modeling 222(18): 3366-3379. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.07.013Download PDF
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