Spatial and Social connectivity of fish- eating “Resident” killer whales in the northern North Pacific

In Holly Fearnbach et al.’s article “Spatial and social connectivity of fish- eating “Resident” killer whales (Orincus orca) in the Northern North Pacific” published in Marine Biology Journal; February 2014, Vol. 161 Issue 2, p. 459- 472. The article’s topic covers the distribution of “Resident” Orca whales in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. This area of the world has some of the most productive long line fishing and ground fish fisheries as well as a large number of resident and transient Orcas that migrate through. The relationship between the fishing industry and the increase population of resident Orcas in this Gulf had not been studied before until this long-term data analysis.

The question that was being asked was where are individual and pods of Resident Orcas being seen in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea and what is the behavioral and social makeup of the group? Seasonal boat observations and photo identification collected for 10 years of spatial movements of orcas helped to create the Bayesian analysis that was performed on pair-wise associations and cluster identification.  Over 3,058 Orca photo- identifications were taken from 331 encounters, which ended up identifying 532 individuals. Due to this article and the question being based off of field research and on marine mammals not on humans, yes expert knowledge was used but so was just hands on field data collection.

This research has an interesting aspect to it in that it is long-term data collection in order to create behavioral family analysis and the Bayesian analysis. The use of the Bayesian statistics was possible due to the large amount of data and due to the degrees of belief that were involved in the knowledge of individual Orcas social encounters. Understanding the clusters and spatial movements of the Orcas could benefit the distribution and possible need to move fishing boats and lines away from migratory patterns of the Orcas. My evaluation is that this knowledge is crucial to limiting the unnecessary human interactions between fisherman and Orcas. This limitation is important in order to ensure Orca safety and decrease entanglement, which is bad for fisherman and the whales.