Bryde’s Whales

Full Title: Trophic Interactions and Habitat Requirements of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s Whales

Lead Investigator (Institution): Lance P. Garrison (NOAA) lance.garrison@noaa.gov

Co-Investigators (Institution): Melissa Soldevilla (NOAA), Keith Mullin (NOAA), John Hildebrand (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego), Michael  Heithaus (Florida International University), and Jeremy Kiszka (Florida International University)

NOAA Technical Point of Contact: Frank Parker (frank.parker@noaa.gov)

Award Amount: $2,312,275

Award Period: June 1, 2017 – May 31, 2020

Summary: The Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale population occurs in a small region along the shelf-break near the De Soto Canyon in the northeastern Gulf and is estimated to include 33 individuals with very low levels of genetic diversity. As a result, this population is currently proposed for listing as ‘Endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act, and is a priority species for recovery management and restoration. This project will develop a comprehensive ecological understanding of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales, including the physical, oceanographic, and biological features defining critical habitat and their ecological role in Gulf of Mexico marine food webs. Using visual and acoustic monitoring, environmental measurements, collection of tissues from free-swimming whales, studies of prey distribution and composition, and deployment of animal-borne telemetry tags, the investigators will develop models and conduct analyses that provide information to managers and inform restoration and population recovery activities. The project results will contribute directly to the development of restoration plans, recovery plans, and environmental impact assessments that are key to the effective conservation of Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales.