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SC/64/SH16

Distribution and behavior of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae Borowski, 1781) (Breeding Stock G), in southern Pacific of Costa Rica
JOS DAVID PALACIOS-ALFARO1 , DAMIN MARTNEZ-FERNNDEZ1, CRISTINA SNCHEZGODINEZ1, RUBN VENEGAS LI1
1

Fundacin Keto. 100 m Sur de Pan e Vino, San Pedro Costa Rica. Apdo. 1735-1002

Correspondense: Jose David Palacios Alfaro, Fundacin Keto. 100m Sur de Pan e Vino, San Pedro Costa Rica. Apdo. 1735-1002. Abstract Humpback whales from the Breeding Stock G were studied in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica from 20092011 (July-October) using whale-watching boats from Punta Uvita. Trips were in two Marine Protected Areas: the Marino Ballena National Park (MBNP) and Isla del Cao Biological Reserve (ICBR). A total of 203 boat surveys in 176 days were made and more than 12750km were surveyed. We made 208 sightings and 421 animals were observed. The annual rate of encounter were highest in 2009 with 0.040 whales/km, follow by 0.034 whales/km in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The group size was 2.03 (min 1-max 8) animals. Encounters included singles, adult pairs, mother/calf pairs, adult groups (3 to 8 animals) and mother/calf groups. At least one calf was present in the 64% of the sightings; this shows the importance of this area for breeding. The humpback whales were distributed in the coastal waters close to the shore and shallow waters (<50 m) in MBNP and the north and east side of the ICBR, similar to distribution patterns of humpback whales from north Pacific during boreal winter. Around 35 % of the sightings were inside marine protected areas. Keywords: Distribution, Breeding grounds, Social, Pacific Ocean. Introduction The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is the most common specie of baleen whale sighting in coastal waters in the pacific coast of Costa Rica (May-Collado et al. 2005). This area is visit by two populations of humpback whales: the North Pacific population comes from coast of Oregon and California, and the South Pacific population comes from the Peninsula Antarctica (Calambokidis et al. 2008, Rasmussen et al. 2007, Rasmussen et al. 2011). Each of these populations migrates to warm and shallow areas during winter season (Clapham and Mead 1999). As these waters are usually low in productivity, humpback whales do not feed during this time (Clapham 2000). Their behavior is primarily for breeding and mating, where is common to observe mother/calf pair and competitive groups (Clapham and Mead 1999, Clapham 2000). The waters of Central America are the only known whale-breeding habitat that is shared by whales from two different hemispheres (Rasmussen et al. 2007). In Costa Rica, whale watching supports the economy of some coastal populations dedicated of this activity, and humpback whales are the main species why people are attracted (e.g. Montero and Martinez 2007, Hoyt and Iiguez 2008). The present work pretend to describe the patterns of distribution and behavior of humpback whales of stock G in the Marino Ballena National Park and Isla del Cao Biological Reserve in Osa to improve the knowledge of this baleen whale in southern pacific coast of Costa Rica. Materials and Methods Area Marino Ballena National Park (MBNP) is located in Osa in the south pacific coast of Costa Rica. His marine protected area is 5229 ha and terrestrial area is around 162ha (Cortes and Wehrtmann 2009). It was created in 1990, to protect marine fauna like corals, birds, reef fish and cetaceans. Isla del Cao Biological Reserve

(ICBR) is continental island off the Osa peninsula, his marine protect area is 5207ha and the terrestrial area is 226ha (Cortes and Wehrtmann 2009). The closest point to mainland is around 15km from San Pedrillo, and it was created to protect marine fauna, mainly corals reef in the pacific of the Costa Rica. This two protected areas are part of the Area de Conservacion Osa (ACOSA). Boat surveys The study area was boat survey from 2009 to 2011 period (July to October), using the platform of opportunity with the whale watching boats that departure of Playa Uvita inside the MBNP. A total of 203 trips were made, 176 days and 12752.9km were surveyed and time observation was between 7:30 to 16:00. (Table 1). One or two observers were in the whale watching boats. Most of the trips were between 3 to 5 hours, mainly during the morning. The tour destinations were inside and outside the waters of MBNP and ICBR.

Data collection In every sighting was recorded the date, time (start, end), clue to sighting (e.g. blow, jump, splash, tail, whalewatching boat), latitude and longitude with GPS, group size (minimum, best estimate, maximum), group composition were defined as single, mother/calf, Mother/calf-escort, mother/calf with more than one escort, follow the categories of Rasmussen et al. (2011), behavioral state at the beginning, during and the end of encounter, and behavioral categories: resting, traveling, social (aerial behavior, competitive behavior). Also, number and type of boats present, deep and closed distance to coast were recorded. Data analyses Monthly sightings rates (whale sightings per day) and annual rates (whales observed per km surveyed) were calculated to give an index of encounter rate by month and relative density by year. These rates were standardized for bias in the survey effort by month and year, in order to compare between them. Humpback whale sightings in the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica were mapped using ArcGIS 9.2 (ESRI 2006). The map representing the totality of sightings during 2009, 2010 and 2011 of breeding stock G were generated (July to October). In order to create the maps, point files of the sightings were generated using the latitude and longitude information collected on the field, by using the Add XY DATA tool. The sightings were overlayed over a bathymetric model for the Eastern Pacific coast of Costa Rica (The Nature Conservancy 2008) which has a spatial resolution of 100m. This bathymetric model was also used to extract the depth at each sighting location (by using the Extract values to Points tool from ArcMap). Statistical analisys The normality of the data was tested using Shapiro Wilk test. Mann Whitney test was performed to compare between depths used by adults and mother-calve pair. The statistical analyses were performed in R program. Results In the period of study a total of 208 sightings of humpback whale were recorded and 421 animals were observed (Table 1). The mean group size were 2.03 ( 0.94 SD) and groups ranged from 1 to 8 individuals. The most common sighting clue was a radio call from other(s) whalewatching boats (52%), followed by the blow (25%) and dorsal fin and back (15%), the rest clues were unfrequented, like head, jumps or tail. The first whales were sighted in July (between first and second week). The monthly rate of sightings of humpback whales showed the lowest values at the beginning of the season with 0.5 sightings/day, and increase to 1.5/day in August and 2.0/day in September. In October the rate was 0.8/day (Fig. 1). The high values were in September of 2009 with 2.9/day, September of 2011 with 1.8/day and August of 2010 and 2011 with 1.6 and 1.7/day respectively (Fig. 1). The annual rate of encounter were 0.036 whales/km surveyed, the highest rate was in 2009 with 0.040 whales/km and the lowest were in 2010 and 2011with 0.034 whales/km (Table 1). The humpback whales were distributed in all the study area, with two areas of aggregation, one in the north and east of Cao Island and another along the coastal of the north of Osa peninsula, from Dominical to Ventanas, included the protected

waters of MBNP (Fig. 2). The mean depth of the sightings were 38m (SD 24, n = 208), with 72% of the sightings in depths <50 m. The maximun and minimun depth were 88m and 4m, respectively. Groups with calf were present in shallow waters, mean depth 32m (SD 23 , n= 137) with respect to groups without calves with 47m (SD 22 , n= 71) (W=6280, p<0.001, Mann Whitney test). In general the groups occurred close to the coast and the mean distance was 4.82km (SD 4,6, n=208). The pairs of mother and calf were the most common group observed in the area with 114 sightings (55%), follow by single individual with 44 sightings (21%), adults pairs 24 (12%) and mother/calf/escort with 11 sightings (12%) (Table 2). The rest of the groups had 5% or less and were uncommon. In general, the calves were present in 64% sightings and the groups ranged were between 2 to 6 individuals (Table 2). In six sightings, more than one calf were observed in the group, four of this groups were two adults and two calves, one were two mother and calf with two escorts and one were three adults and three calves. Competitive groups were observed five times, in two of this one calf was present, and show active and aerial behavior, fast swimming, jumps, and tail splash. A total of 71 sightings (35%) were inside the marine protect areas, of this 63 were in Marino Ballena, while in Isla del Cao just 8 sightings were recorded. Discussion Humpback whales from breeding stock G occurred in all the study area, from coastal areas to Isla del Cao. This stock is known to breed from May to October mainly in the coast of Central and South America (Florez et al. 2007). The first sighting (July) in the present study is around two months later from the beginning of the breeding season, this can be explain by the distance that the whales have to travel to pacific coast of Costa Rica. The wintering ground from the breeding stock G extent from 6 S in Peru to 10 N in Costa Rica and is around 3000 km (Felix et al. 2009). In this study, the aggregation area found around Isla del Cao are similar to the area used by humpback whales from north Pacific that visit the area during boreal winter (Rasmussen et al. 2011). The area around the MBNP showed the highest concentration of sightings, and this was no reflect in previous studies (Oviedo and Solis 2008, Rasmussen et al. 2011) this can be an artifact of survey effort were focused in the area. The percent of groups of calves reported in this work is high if it is compared with previous work in the area and other places (See review in Rasmussen et al. 2011). Again, this can due to the survey effort, and also that the captains of whale watching boats in the area prefer to target groups with calves. Therefore, it is necessary carried out systematic survey to have a best estimate in this aspect. The groups of mothers with calves present in this work are important to mention because they are very rare in wintering areas. They had been reported in summer areas and are rare (Clapham and Mayo 1987). In the Clapham (2000) review of humpback whales, mentioned that the lactating females tend to avoid each others. In one sighting of a group of mothers and calves in 22 September 2009, a group of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) were in the vicinity of the whales. If the group was a response of the presence of this species or is part of social aspect or both is unknown. The humpback whale is one of the cetacean species of interest in initiatives of conservation inside the ACOSA (SINAC 2008), previous studies have found a important area between the ICBR and the coastal areas of Osa Peninsula including the marine area of Corcovado National Park (see, Oviedo and Solis and Rasmussen et al. 2011). The present distribution pattern of humpback whales in this work show that MBNP is an important area for the breeding stock G, that should take in count in the management of the area. More work is necessary to study the use of habitat, temporal residency, identification of critical habitats of whales in the area, and the interaction with whalewatching boats. Acknowledgments The autors would like to all the people who helped during field trips in the southern pacific in Osa region specially Asociacion de Tour-Operadores de Turismo en el Parque Nacional Marino Ballena: Bahia Aventuras, Ballena Aventura, Bahia Ballena Tour, Dolphin Tour, Ballena Tour, La Colonia Tour, Fragata Tour, Gurrion

Tour, Kefersi Tour, Pacific Whales and Kayak tour, Pelican tour, Winsheale Tour. To the Captains and guides: Julio y Marlene Badilla, Mauricio Quesada, Ronald Monge Kiko, Paula Ramrez, Ronald Monge, Fernando Monge, Endre y Alejandro Vsquez, Jos Mesen, Rafael Ortega, Oscar, Fernando Guerrero, Charlie Len, Luz Miriam Badilla, Walter Brenes, Reymer Brenes, Rafael Rosales, Junior Monge, Carlos Salas, Jovino Vargas, Antonio Quesada, Roy Quesada, Eduardo Quesada. Alejandro Orozco. Dennis Mora. Eligio y Rafa Jademar. Volunteers: Tomas Gonzlez, Claudia Matzdorf, Sonya Gallego, Maite Urrutxua, Melanie and Alvaro Sauma for the help in the field. Finally to all Park rangers from ACOSA. References Calambokidis, J., Falcone, E. A., Quinn, T. J., Burdin, A. M., Clapham, P. J., Ford, J. K. B., Gabriele, C. M., LeDuc, R., Mattila, D., Rojas-Bracho, L., Straley, J. M., Taylor, B. L., Urbn J., Weller, D., Witteveen, B. H., Yamaguchi, M., Bendlin, A., Camacho, D., Flynn, K., Havron, A., Huggins, J., Maloney, N., Barlow, J. & Wade, P. R. 2008. SPLASH: Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific. Final report for Contract AB133F-03-RP-00078 from U.S. Dept of Commerce. Cortes, J. and Wehrtmann, I. 2009. Diversity of marine habitats of the Caribbean and Pacific of Costa Rica. Chapter I. pp 1-45. In: I.S. Wehrtmann, J. Cortes (eds.) Marine biodiversity of Costa Rica, Central America. i-xxxiv+538pp. Clapham, P. J. 2000. The humpback whale. Social feeding and breeding in a Baleen Whale. pp. 173-196. In: J. Mann, R. C. Connor, P. L. Tyack and H. Whitehead (eds.). Cetacean Societies. Fields studies of dolphins and whales. i-xiv+433pp. Clapham, P. J. and Mayo, C. A. 1987. Reproduction and recruitment of individually identified humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, observed in Massachusettes Bay, 1979-1985. Can. J. Zool. 65: 285363. Clapham, P. J. and Mead, J. G. 1999. Megaptera novaeangliae. Mammalian Species. 604: 1-9. Flix, F., Rasmussen, K., Garita, F., Haase, B., and Simonis, A. 2009. Movements of humpback whales between Ecuador and Central America, wintering area of the Breeding Stock G. Paper SC/61/SH18 presented to the 61 Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Madeira, Portugal, June 2009. Flrez-Gonzlez, L., vila, I.C., Capella, J.C., Falk, P., Flix, F., Gibbons, J., Guzmn, H.M., Haase, B., Herrera, J.C., Pea, V., Santilln, L., Tobn I.C. and Van Waerebeek, K. 2007. Estrategia para la Conservacin de la Ballena Jorobada del Pacfico Sudeste. Lineamientos para un plan de accin regional e iniciativas nacionales. Fundacin Yubarta. Cali, Colombia. 106pp. Hoyt, E. and Iguez, M. 2008. The State of Whale Watching in Latin America. WDCS, Chippenham, UK; IFAW, Yarmouth Port, USA; and Global Ocean, London, 60pp. May-Collado, L., Gerrodette, T., Calambokidis, J., Rasmussen, K. and Sereg, I. 2005. Patterns of cetacean sighting distribution in the Pacific exclusive economic zone of Costa Rica, based on data collected from 19792001. Rev. Biol. Trop. 53:249263. Montero-Cordero, A. and Martnez-Fernndez, D. 2007. Whale-watching revenues and decree regulation awareness in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. Abstract, 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Cape Town, South Africa. Nov. 29th-Dec. 3rd. Oviedo, L. and Solis, M. 2008. Underwater topography determines critical breeding habitat for humpback whales near Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica: implications for Marine Protected Areas. Rev. Biol. Trop. 56: 591-602. Rasmussen, K., Palacios, D.M., Calambokidis, J., Saborio, M.T., Dalla Rosa, L., Secchi, E.R., Steiger, G.H., Allen, J.M. and Stone, G.S. 2007. Southern Hemisphere humpback whales wintering off Central America: insights from water temperature into the longest mammalian migration. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0067.

Rasmussen K, Calambokidis J. and G. Steiger. 2011. Distribution and migratory destinations of humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Central America during the boreal winters of 1996-2003. Mar. Mamm. Sci. DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2011.00529.x Sistema Nacional de reas de Conservacin (SINAC) del Ministerio de Ambiente, Energa y Telecomunicaciones (MINAET). 2008. GRUAS II. Propuesta de ordenamiento territorial para la conservacin de la biodiversidad en Costa Rica. Anlisis de vacios de Conservacin en Costa Rica. Volumen III. Vacios en la representatividad de la biodiversidad marina y costera. San Jos, CR. 60pp.

Table 1. Survey effort (Days, kilometers), number of sightings, number of whales observed, number of calves observed and encounter rates of humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica 2009-2011 (July-October).

Month August
Days Km Days Km Days Km

July Sightings 74 73 61 208 148 148 125 421 53 44 38 135 Whales Calves

September

October

Total

Days

Km

Whales /km 0,037 0,032 0,026 0,032

Calves /km 0,013 0,009 0,009 0,010

Year 2009 2010 2011 16 19 17 1376,3 1281,5 1515,6 14 21 8 959,1 1018,7 453,3 7 5 5 411,9 399,2 295,8 Total

17 19 28

1287,4 1856,1 1898,0

Days 54 64 58 176

Km 4034,7 4555,5 4162.7 12752.9

Table 2. Group composition of humpback whale (Breeding stock G) in southern Pacific of Costa Rica 20092011 (July-October). Total Group composition Singles Adult pairs Mother/calf Mother/calf/escort Groups larger than 2 no calf Groups larger than 3 with calf Total groups with calf Total Number 44 24 114 11 6 9 134 208 Percent (%) 21 12 55 5 3 4 64

Figure 1. Monthly sighting rate of Humpback whale of Breeding Stock G in the southern pacific of Costa Rica 2009 to 2011.

Figure 2. Distribution of humpback whale (Breeding Stock G) in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica.