Killer whales of the Crozet Archipelago and adjacent waters: photo-identification catalogue, population status and distribution in 2020

Paul Tixier, Nicolas Gasco, Jared R. Towers, Christophe Guinet
Three forms of killer whales (Orcinus orca) occur around the subantarctic islands of the southern Indian Ocean (42-53°S; 34-74°E). The form encountered in both inshore and offshore waters, described as generalist in its feeding preferences (seals, whales, penguins and fish as prey) and known to depredate toothfish from longliners has been opportunistically photo-identified around the Crozet archipelago since the 1960s. Together with photo-identification data collected in the Prince
more » ... Prince Edward/Marion EEZ, Kerguelen EEZ and international waters, this report provides up to date information on the abundance and distribution of the Crozet killer whales. In total, 124,313 photographs taken during 2,109 encounters since 1964 were analysed, allowing for 299 individuals to be identified. Most encounters with available data were from the Crozet EEZ (1,432 from longliners, 602 from Île de la Possession) and occurred after 2003 when photo-identification was implemented in the fishery observer program. Among the 188 individuals recorded in the Crozet EEZ since 2003, 22 (12%) were also photographed in the Kerguelen EEZ, 13 (7%) in the Prince Edward/Marion EEZ and 13 (7%) in adjacent international waters. The frequently encountered subset of the Crozet killer whale population was composed of 23 social units (maternal groups), 19 of which included individuals alive in 2020. These social units ranged in size from 1 to 11 individuals with a mean (± SD) of 4 ± 3 per unit. As of June 2020 when the latest photographs included in the study were taken, abundance of this subset was 89-94 individuals. However, detailed analysis of data collected between 2005 and 2020 shows that the number of confirmed deaths (n = 51) exceeds the number of recorded births (n = 46), resulting in a 5% decrease of the population size over this period. These deaths were distributed across the population with the majority occurring in the most common sex and age classes - adult females and juveniles. Factors contributing to mortalities are unclear. W [...]
doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.13677145.v1 fatcat:2pkxz5zwknhqlc7rpivzskaeme