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Rice's Whale Occurrence in the Western Gulf of Mexico from Passive Acoustic Recordings

February 13, 2024

This research summarizes acoustic detections of Rice’s whales in the western Gulf of Mexico, including new information demonstrating their regular occurrence in waters offshore of Texas and in the waters offshore of Mexico.

Researchers deployed long-term passive acoustic recorders offshore of Louisiana and Texas for 356 days, and in Mexico waters for 680 days. We detected Rice’s whale calls throughout the year offshore of Texas and Louisiana (25 percent of days, and 33 percent of days, respectively). We also detected Rice’s whale calls sporadically throughout the year at a site offshore of Mexico, with calls detected on 15 percent of days.

These findings provide additional support for Rice's whales' persistent occurrence in the western Gulf, including new information demonstrating their regular occurrence in waters offshore of Texas. The study also provides the first evidence that Rice’s whales occur in Mexican waters. This demonstrates that Rice’s whales have a transboundary range including both U.S. and Mexico waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This discovery has numerous implications for the management and conservation of this endangered species. These findings highlight the importance of continuing surveys into these waters to refine future population estimates and track the status of the Rice’s whale population.

Melissa S. Soldevilla, Amanda J. Debich, Itzel Pérez-Carballo, Sierra Jarriel, Kaitlin E. Frasier, Lance P. Garrison, Adolfo Gracia, John A. Hildebrand, Patricia E. Rosel, Arturo Serrano. 2024. Rice's whale occurrence in the western Gulf of Mexico from passive acoustic recordings. Marine Mammal Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.13109

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on 02/13/2024