Proposed Abstract Title

Coming full circle: using data collected by mariners to mitigate vessel-related threats to cetaceans

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Tools and Strategies for Growing Citizen Science

Location

2016SSEC

Description

The Salish Sea is host to high densities of both cetaceans and maritime traffic, with approximately 11,000 large vessels transiting through the area each year. As such, cetaceans in the region are vulnerable to anthropogenic threats, including entanglement, large vessel disturbance and vessel strikes. These threats can have grave consequences for individuals, such as serious injury or mortality, and may cause lasting population-level effects for species with reduced numbers. Mitigating these threats is high priority for conservationists, policy makers and scientists, but taking action to do so is complicated by the widespread and temporally-variable distributions of cetaceans and vessels. Using data collected over a long-term period to identify specific areas where high densities of marine mammals and vessels overlap can make this task easier. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a 15 year old citizen science initiative, used its opportunistically- collected cetacean sightings dataset and spatially-explicit estimate of relative observer effort to undertake a hotspot analysis for five species of cetaceans listed as “at-risk” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The results of this analysis were combined with fishing and shipping vessel traffic distribution data to create maps highlighting where cetacean dense areas corresponded with heavy vessel traffic, indicating areas of high risk for the aforementioned threats. The Network focused mitigation-related outreach on mariners that frequent the identified high-risk areas. Directly reaching these target groups maximizes the impact of educational outreach efforts – an important consideration for fund-limited organizations undertaking such efforts.

Comments

The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is a research and conservation program of the Vancouver Aquarium, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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Coming full circle: using data collected by mariners to mitigate vessel-related threats to cetaceans

2016SSEC

The Salish Sea is host to high densities of both cetaceans and maritime traffic, with approximately 11,000 large vessels transiting through the area each year. As such, cetaceans in the region are vulnerable to anthropogenic threats, including entanglement, large vessel disturbance and vessel strikes. These threats can have grave consequences for individuals, such as serious injury or mortality, and may cause lasting population-level effects for species with reduced numbers. Mitigating these threats is high priority for conservationists, policy makers and scientists, but taking action to do so is complicated by the widespread and temporally-variable distributions of cetaceans and vessels. Using data collected over a long-term period to identify specific areas where high densities of marine mammals and vessels overlap can make this task easier. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a 15 year old citizen science initiative, used its opportunistically- collected cetacean sightings dataset and spatially-explicit estimate of relative observer effort to undertake a hotspot analysis for five species of cetaceans listed as “at-risk” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The results of this analysis were combined with fishing and shipping vessel traffic distribution data to create maps highlighting where cetacean dense areas corresponded with heavy vessel traffic, indicating areas of high risk for the aforementioned threats. The Network focused mitigation-related outreach on mariners that frequent the identified high-risk areas. Directly reaching these target groups maximizes the impact of educational outreach efforts – an important consideration for fund-limited organizations undertaking such efforts.