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DPS Analysis of Western North Pacific Gray Whales under the ESA

March 30, 2023

NOAA Technical Memo

This report provides an accounting of the work of a Status Review Team (SRT), convened by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to determine whether western North Pacific gray whales qualify as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the joint NMFS-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy on identifying Distinct Population Segments (“DPS Policy,” 61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). Following the deliberations and expert elicitation process used by the SRT, it was concluded that three gray whale units meet the DPS Policy criteria for discreteness and significance; these include: (1) Western North Pacific (WNP)-only unit (gray whales that spend their entire life in the WNP), (2) WNP-Eastern North Pacific (ENP) unit (gray whales that feed in the WNP in the summer and fall and migrate to the ENP (including Mexico) in the winter) and (3) WNP-only + WNP-ENP combined as a single unit. The SRT recommends that the Combined Option (where the WNP-only + WNP-ENP are combined into a single DPS) be used to designate the WNP-only + WNP-ENP units together as a single DPS. The SRT did not conclude that the WNP-only unit or WNP-ENP unit are not separate DPSs, but rather they agreed that the most practicable means of obtaining positive management outcomes is to combine the units into a single DPS and provide protections throughout the entire range of that DPS.

Last updated by Southwest Fisheries Science Center on 04/17/2024