The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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Stock Status

Northeast Atlantic

To date four abundance estimates are available from the Northeast Atlantic covering the period from 1989 to 2007, ranging from a low of 63,730 (cv 0.19) in 1989 to a high of 112,125 (cv 0.10). The last two estimates, covering the periods 1996–2001 and 2001–2007, are nearly the same. The apparent fluctuations in abundance, which are not statistically significant, may be due to changes in survey methods and coverage or changes in whale distribution over the period. There is no evidence that abundance has increased or decreased from 1989 to 2007. Although neither NAMMCO or the IWC has assigned a specific conservation status to this stock, it is likely that it is in a healthy state as the numbers are large relative to present and historic harvests, and there is no evidence of any downward trend in numbers.

Central Atlantic 

Five abundance estimates for the CM sub-region of the Central Atlantic are available between 1987 and 2005, from Norwegian and NASS surveys. These have shown a general upward trend from 1989 to 1997, with stabilization thereafter. This increase is coincident in time with the roughly equivalent decrease in the Northeast, which may indicated that there is overlap between these areas. Given the upward trend, there is no conservation concern for this group.

The area around Iceland, designated the CIP sub-region of the Central Atlantic, has been covered by aerial surveys four times since 1987. Recent estimates (2007 and 2009) have been lower than previous ones. The reasons for this are unclear. Common minke whaling by Iceland has resumed only recently and the take is certainly not high enough to cause a decline of this apparent magnitude. Other possibilities include: 1) a change in seasonal migration, with common minke whales arriving in the area later than in previous years; 2) a change in spatial distribution, with common minke whales that previously summered in this area moving somewhere else. The latter possibility seems most likely, as in recent years, pronounced changes have occurred in oceanographic conditions and relative distribution and abundance of several species of fish (including sandeel and capelin) and seabirds in Icelandic waters. Such changes in the distribution of important prey species would be expected to affect the distribution of common minke whales. Future surveys will attempt to address this question by extending coverage to areas not covered previously, particularly to the north and west, that might host large numbers of common minke whales. The NAMMCO Scientific Committee used all available survey, catch and other data to conclude in 2011 that annual removals of up to 229 common minke whales from the CIC area are safe and precautionary for the next five years (NAMMCO 2012a).

West Greenland

The three aerial surveys that have produced useable abundance estimates since 1993 suggest an increase in abundance since that time. However the surveys have used somewhat different methodologies so the results may not be strictly comparable. In addition, there is evidence that common minke whales caught off West Greenland may be a component of a more widespread stock, particularly considering the high proportion of females in the catch (Laidre et al. 2009). Therefore it is difficult to infer the status of the overall stock using results from surveys off West Greenland only. Nevertheless there is no evidence that numbers are decreasing in the area.

Canadian East Coast 

There is only one recent estimate of common minke whale abundance from this area from the 2007 TNASS. There is therefore no way to determine population trends in the area. However, as there has been no recent hunting in this area and no other known threats to the population, there is likely no conservation concern at this time.

Minke assessment table for web