Hyperoodon ampullatus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Ziphiidae

Scientific Name: Hyperoodon ampullatus (Forster, 1770)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English North Atlantic Bottlenose Whale, Bottlehead, Northern Bottlenose Whale
French Hyperoodon Boréal
Spanish Ballena Hocico De Botella Del Norte, Ballena Hocico De Botella Del Norte, Ballena Nariz De Botella Del Norte, Ballena Nariz De Botella Del Norte
Hyperoodon rostratus Van Beneden & Gervais, 1880
Taxonomic Notes: The Northern Bottlenose Whale forms an antitropical species pair with the Southern Bottlenose Whale, Hyperoodon planifrons.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L.
Reviewer(s): Hammond, P.S. & Perrin, W.F. (Cetacean Red List Authority)
As with similar species, threats that could cause widespread declines include high levels of anthropogenic sound, especially military sonar and seismic surveys. The population remains depleted from whaling. However, the decline took place more than three generations ago; the combination of possible declines driven by vulnerability to high-level anthropogenic sound sources is believed sufficient that a 30% global reduction over three generations (53 years; Taylor et al. 2007) cannot be ruled out (criterion A).
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Northern bottlenose whales are found only in the North Atlantic, from New England, USA to Baffin Island and southern Greenland in the west and from the Strait of Gibraltar to Svalbard in the east (c. 38ºN to 72ºN; Mead 1989; Gowans 2002). There are reports from the Mediterranean Sea (Cañadas and Sagarminaga 2000), and some extra-limital records from the Baltic Sea. The best-known subpopulation of the northern bottlenose whale, the best known of all beaked whales, occurs in the waters over “The Gully,” a large submarine canyon off Nova Scotia, Canada (44ºN, 59ºW; Reeves et al. 1993). However, there have been strandings and at least one sighting as far south as North Carolina in the western Atlantic (Mead 1989). The Gully is the southernmost area of consistent northern bottlenose whale presence in the western Atlantic (Wimmer and Whitehead 2004). In the eastern Atlantic, bottlenose whales are occasionally observed off the Azores (Steiner et al. 1998), and have been seen as far south as the Cape Verde Islands (15ºN; Ruud 1937). The pelagic distribution extends from the ice edges south to approximately 30°N.
Countries occurrence:
Canada; Cape Verde; Faroe Islands; France; Germany; Greenland; Iceland; Ireland; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Spain; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; United Kingdom; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – northwest
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Global abundance has not been estimated. A rough estimate open to questions is that about 40,000 occur in the eastern North Atlantic (NAMMCO Annual Report 1995), including an estimated 5,827 (CV=16%) in the high latitudes of the eastern North Atlantic (Gunnlaugsson and Sigurjónsson 1990). Estimates for Icelandic and Faroese waters were 3,142 and 287 whales respectively, although allowance was not made in the surveys for animals not observed because of their long dives. A subpopulation of c. 163 individuals (95% CI 119-214) occurs in the Gully (Scotian Shelf). About 57% of this subpopulation is found in a 20 x 8 km core area at the entrance of the canyon at any time. Mark-recapture analysis of fifteen years of data suggest that this population is stable (Whitehead and Wimmer 2005). Most subpopulations of the species are probably still depleted, due to large kills in the past; over 65,000 animals were killed in a multinational hunt that operated in the North Atlantic from c. 1850 to the early 1970’s (Mitchell 1977; Reeves et al. 1993).

A study by Christensen and Ugland (1983) resulted in an estimated initial (pre-whaling) population size of about 90,000 whales, reduced to some 30,000 by 1914. The population size by the mid-1980s was said to be about 54,000, roughly 60% of the initial stock size.

Historic catch distributions indicated the existence of at least six centers of abundance, each potentially representing a separate stock (Benjaminsen 1972): i) the Gully; ii) northern Labrador-Davis Strait; iii) northern Iceland; iv) and v), off Andenes and Møre, Norway, and vi) around Svalbard, Spitzbergen. Anecdotal reports from whalers suggest a north/south seasonal migration could occur in some regions but there is little strong evidence for this and whales are reported in the Gully year round. They inhabit the most northerly waters of the Barents and Greenland seas in summer (May to August).

The small resident population in the Gully is largely isolated from populations to the north (Labrador) and northwest (northern Iceland); the whales there are smaller and appear to breed at a different time of year (Whitehead et al. 1997b and are genetically distinct at both mitochondrial and nuclear markers, refuting the hypothesis of seasonal migrations between these regions (Dalebout et al. 2006). Little is known about populations in central and western North Atlantic (Reyes et al. 1993). For statistical consideration, Christensen (1975) assumed that all the bottlenose whales caught east of Greenland belonged to a single subpopulation, while Mitchell (1977) defined Cape Farewell (Greenland) to divide west and east North Atlantic catches (Culik 2004).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:These cold temperate to subarctic whales are found in deep waters, mostly seaward of the continental shelf (and generally over 500-1,500 m deep) and near submarine canyons. They sometimes travel several kilometers into broken ice fields, but are more common in open water. Few whales were caught in shallow waters over the continental shelf off Labrador and in waters less than 1000 m deep off the west coast of Norway.

The species occupies a very narrow niche; the primary food source is squid of the genus Gonatus (Hooker et al. 2001; Whitehead et al. 2003). The whales may also occasionally eat fish (such as herring and redfish), sea cucumbers, starfish, and prawns. They do much of their feeding on or near the bottom in very deep water (> 800 m, and as deep as 1,400 m; Hooker and Baird 1999).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species was heavily exploited in the past for multiple purposes, but there is now only a very small-scale fishery in the Faroes.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This is one of only a few species of beaked whales to be hunted commercially on a large scale. Hunts occurred from the 1850s to the 1970s, and over 65,000 whales were killed (with many more struck but lost; Reeves et al. 1993). They have also been hunted in a drive fishery in the Faroe Islands, with over 800 taken there (Bloch et al. 1996).

By far the major bottlenose whaling nation has been Norway, though some hunting was also done by the UK, Canada and Denmark (Faroes). The northern bottlenose was sought after for its oil (including a form of spermaceti oil in the head) and later for pet food. No hunting of this species has been conducted by Norway since 1973 (Jefferson et al. 1993, Reyes, 1991. The species has been essentially unexploited for almost 30 years, with only a few animals taken in some years in the Faroe Islands (on average 2.2 whales per year in the period 1709-2002). The aggregate population was certainly reduced by whaling, and the extent of recovery is uncertain (Reeves et al. 2003). Mitchell (1977) considered that the population was severely depleted in both the early and modern whaling periods. Few incidental catches have been reported (Reyes 1991).

There are no major fisheries for squid in the Northeast Atlantic, but future developments could represent some threat. This species, like other beaked whales, is likely to be vulnerable to loud anthropogenic sounds, such as those generated by navy sonar and seismic exploration (Cox et al. 2006).

Predicted impacts of global climate change on the marine environment may affect this species of whale, although the nature of impacts is unclear (Learmonth et al. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is included in Appendix I of CITES.

The species was included in the International Whaling Commission schedule in 1977, with recommendations that northern bottlenose whales be granted Protected Stock status with zero catch limit (Klinowska 1991). Populations or stocks are not defined; this, together with estimates of present abundance), should be the focus of future studies (Culik 2004; Dalebout et al. 2006).

Citation: Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. 2008. Hyperoodon ampullatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T10707A3208523. . Downloaded on 25 September 2017.
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