Sei Whale Pacific population
Scientific Name: Balaenoptera borealis
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Pacific Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2013
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2ad; D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Individuals off the coast of British Columbia are likely part of a northeastern Pacific population that was depleted by whaling. The infrequency of observations (visual and acoustic) suggests that numbers in Canada are currently very low (well below 250 mature individuals) and reports of this species are similarly rare in adjacent US waters to the north (Alaska) and south (Washington, Oregon, California). Threats to this species along the coast of British Columbia are poorly known, but may include ship strikes, anthropogenic noise, and long-term changes in climate (which could affect the abundance of their zooplankton prey).
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in May 2003. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2013.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents
Image of Sei Whale
The Sei Whale is a rorqual whale and belongs to the same family as the Blue Whale. This group of whales is characterized by pleated grooves in the skin of the neck that allow the throat to expand during the intake of water during feeding. Its back and sides are dark grey or bluish-grey in colour, while the ventral surface and throat grooves are greyish-white. There is a lot of individual variation in coloration — some individuals may have a white or light area on the flippers, and a white streak may extend to behind the ear. The flipper or the flukes are dark grey or bluish, and the body often has a galvanized appearance as a result of light-coloured scars inflicted by various predators or parasites. The jaw, lips, and mouth cavity are uniformly grey. Sei Whales are generally 14 to 15 m long, and weigh about 20 tonnes; females are generally about 0.5 m longer than males. In temperate waters, Sei Whales can be confused with Fin and Minke whales, potentially resulting in an underestimation of population sizes. It is necessary to get a look at the right jaw or the ventral portion of the tail to be sure of the identification.
Distribution and Population
The Sei Whale is a cosmopolitan species, with a patchy distribution in all of the oceans of the world. It is found off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada. The Atlantic population was also assessed by COSEWIC in 2003 and found to be Data Deficient. The Sei Whale Pacific population is found in the waters off British Columbia, where its northern limit is suggested to be about 55?N. There have been no sightings of Sei Whales off Canada’s Pacific coast since commercial whaling was halted in 1976. There has, however, been limited survey effort and Sei Whales may have been mistaken for Fin or Minke whales. Population estimates of 7 000 to 13 000 individuals, published in 1977 for the whole North Pacific, are still cited today.
It favours temperate, deep offshore habitat more than other species of large whales. Records kept during commercial whaling off British Columbia indicate that less than 0.5% of the Sei Whales were caught on the continental shelf. In summer, Sei Whales do not move as far toward the polar waters as other great whales and do not usually enter icy water.
Sei Whales reach sexual maturity between 5 and 15 years of age, and may live as long as 60 years. The gestation period is estimated to be 10 to 12 months, with conception and calving occurring in winter. Calves are weaned on the feeding grounds after a lactation period of about six months, and the calving interval is two to three years. Sei Whales do not only “gulp feed” like others rorqual whales, they also skim for prey while swimming through the water. Their short, ventral pleats and fine baleen are well-suited to the skimming strategy. They feed primarily on various types of plankton, but will also eat schooling fish and squid. Sei Whales are usually found in small groups of two to five, although many more may be seen together when food is plentiful. Sei Whales are preyed upon by Killer Whales. Sei Whales are exceptionally fast swimmers. It has been estimated that a Sei Whale could reach 56 kmh (30 knots) in its first rush after being struck with a harpoon. A marked individual in the southern ocean moved 4100 km (2200 nautical miles) in a 10-day period, implying an average speed of 17 kmh (9 knots). Migration speeds are likely to be somewhat slower. As is typical of baleen whales, Sei Whales migrate from low-latitude wintering areas to high-latitude summer feeding grounds. There is evidence from catch records that migrations in all basins were segregated according to length (i.e. age), sex, and reproductive status. Pregnant females appear to lead the migration to the feeding grounds, while the youngest animals arrive last and leave first, and do not go as far poleward.
Currently there are no known species-specific factors limiting the recovery of Sei Whales; the threats to which they are exposed are indirect. Concerns include habitat loss and degradation through competition with commercial fisheries, vessel noise and traffic, seismic exploration, chemical contamination, and competition with some species of fish.
The Sei Whale, Pacific population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The Marine Mammal Regulations of the federal Fisheries Act prohibit disturbance of marine mammals except for purposes of hunting, for which a permit is required. None of the species’ range is currently protected in Canadian waters.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Other Protection or Status
The Sei Whale is on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Animals. It is also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which sets controls on the international trade and movement of species that have been, or may be, threatened due to commercial exploitation. The International Whaling Commission has classified the North Pacific stock of the Sei Whale as “Protected.” This designation prohibits commercial whaling, but not whaling for the collection of scientific data.
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin, and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, and B. borealis) in Pacific Canadian Waters
Status Final posting on SAR registry
Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whale Action Plan Technical Team
Jonathan Thar - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Phone: 604-666-3811 Fax: 604-666-3341 Send Email
Recovery Progress and Activities
Summary of Progress to Date Internationally, Sei and Fin Whales are listed as ’protected’ by the International Whaling Commission and as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). A multi-species recovery strategy that includes the Pacific Sei and Fin Whales has been developed. Its goal is to attain long-term viable populations of the Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters through critical habitat identification, determining species abundance and distribution, and threat mitigation. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre along with the Cetus Research and Conservation Society are working to conserve the marine environment by promoting community stewardship and research and by fostering activities that directly assist in the recovery of whales, including Sei and Fin Whales. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Fisheries & Oceans Canada’s Cetacean Research Program and participants conduct annual surveys to estimate the number of Fin Whales and determine the presence of Sei Whales in Pacific Canadian waters. Whenever possible, individual whales sighted during these surveys are photographed for identification and comparison with catalogues of whales sighted in U.S. waters. Acoustic monitoring using submersible passive acoustic recording devices also is being undertaken. Opportunistic sightings of dolphins, porpoises, and whales have been collected by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s BC Cetacean Sightings Network since 1972 which help to determine distribution as well as relative abundance of many species, including Sei and Fin Whales. The Cetus Research and Conservation Society also are working with a network of volunteers to solicit, collect, verify, and record whale sightings. Summary of Recovery Activities The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre compared traffic patterns of the shipping industry with areas of high densities of Fin Whale sightings to determine areas at high risk of ship strikes. The BC Cetacean Sightings Network is supported by activities promoting community stewardship, including: interactive webpage, online blogs and news page, youth-oriented publications, posters, and maintaining relationships with observers who contribute to sighting records. Fisheries & Oceans Canada have a Marine Mammal Incident Response Program to respond to incidents involving marine mammals, including Sei and Fin Whales. Incidents may include violations of the Fisheries Act and/or the Species at Risk Act; live strandings; dead, sick or injured animals; or entanglements. All incidents involving Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters are compiled by the program and will be used to better identify threats and develop specific mitigation strategies. Fisheries & Oceans Canada is developing predictions of Sei and Fin Whale habitat to focus survey effort and identify ‘potential’ habitat, an important component to the identification of critical habitat. The Cetus Research and Conservation Society work to reduce overall impacts on marine animals through ’Straitwatch’. Providing education to northern Vancouver Island residents and visitors, Straitwatch increases awareness of conservation issues and local marine species at risk like the Sei and Fin Whale. A stewardship vessel patrols areas of concern providing marine mammal guidelines and species at risk information to boaters while monitoring activities that may be potentially harmful to vulnerable species. The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area ocean planning initiative will incorporate mitigation strategies to address threats to species at risk and to protect critical habitat(s) on the North Coast of British Columbia, focusing on the Queen Charlotte Basin (Queen Charlotte Sound to Hecate Strait). The marine area extends to the bottom of the shelf slope and therefore includes a significant portion of on-shelf habitat for Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
31 record(s) found.
- Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (2 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (2 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Permits and Related Agreements (19 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation
Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for Blue, Fin and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus and B. borealis) in Pacific Canadian Waters for the Period 2006 – 2011 (2013-11-29)Blue, Fin and Sei Whale (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus and B. borealis) populations in Pacific Canadian waters were respectively listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as: Endangered (2005), Threatened (2006) and Endangered (2005).
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statement - Sei Whale, Pacific population (2013-12-18)Individuals off the coast of British Columbia are likely part of a northeastern Pacific population that was depleted by whaling. The infrequency of observations (visual and acoustic) suggests that numbers in Canada are currently very low (well below 250 mature individuals) and reports of this species are similarly rare in adjacent US waters to the north (Alaska) and south (Washington, Oregon, California). Threats to this species along the coast of British Columbia are poorly known, but may include ship strikes, anthropogenic noise, and long-term changes in climate (which could affect the abundance of their zooplankton prey).
Response Statements - Sei Whale (2004-04-21)A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.
Permits and Related Agreements
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