Event Title

Oil spills and marine mammals in British Columbia, Canada: development and application of a risk-based conceptual framework

Presentation Abstract

Marine mammals are inherently vulnerable to oil spills. We developed a conceptual framework to evaluate the impacts of potential oil exposure on marine mammals and applied it to 21 species inhabiting coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada. Oil spill vulnerability was determined by examining both the likelihood of species-specific (individual) oil exposure and the consequent likelihood of population-level effects. Oil exposure pathways, ecology, and physiological characteristics were first used to assign species—specific vulnerability rankings. Baleen whales were found to be highly vulnerable due to blowhole breathing, surface filter feeding, and invertebrate prey. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were ranked as highly vulnerable due to their time spent at the ocean surface, dense pelage, and benthic feeding techniques. Species-specific vulnerabilities were considered to estimate the likelihood of population- level effects occurring after oil exposure. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations were deemed at highest risk due to small population sizes, complex social structure, long lives, slow reproductive turnover, and dietary specialization. Finally, we related the species–specific and population-level vulnerabilities. In BC, vulnerability was deemed highest for Northern and Southern Resident killer whales and sea otters, followed by Bigg’s killer whales and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Our findings challenge the typical ‘‘indicator species’’ approach routinely used and underscore the need to examine marine mammals at a species and population level for risk-based oil spill predictions. This conceptual framework can be combined with spill probabilities and volumes to develop more robust risk assessments and may be applied elsewhere to identify vulnerability themes for marine mammals.

Session Title

Posters: Vessel Traffic: Risk & Impacts

Conference Track

SSE18: Posters

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)

Document Type

Event

SSEC Identifier

SSE18-133

Start Date

5-4-2018 11:30 AM

End Date

5-4-2018 1:30 PM

Type of Presentation

Poster

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Apr 5th, 11:30 AM Apr 5th, 1:30 PM

Oil spills and marine mammals in British Columbia, Canada: development and application of a risk-based conceptual framework

Marine mammals are inherently vulnerable to oil spills. We developed a conceptual framework to evaluate the impacts of potential oil exposure on marine mammals and applied it to 21 species inhabiting coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada. Oil spill vulnerability was determined by examining both the likelihood of species-specific (individual) oil exposure and the consequent likelihood of population-level effects. Oil exposure pathways, ecology, and physiological characteristics were first used to assign species—specific vulnerability rankings. Baleen whales were found to be highly vulnerable due to blowhole breathing, surface filter feeding, and invertebrate prey. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were ranked as highly vulnerable due to their time spent at the ocean surface, dense pelage, and benthic feeding techniques. Species-specific vulnerabilities were considered to estimate the likelihood of population- level effects occurring after oil exposure. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations were deemed at highest risk due to small population sizes, complex social structure, long lives, slow reproductive turnover, and dietary specialization. Finally, we related the species–specific and population-level vulnerabilities. In BC, vulnerability was deemed highest for Northern and Southern Resident killer whales and sea otters, followed by Bigg’s killer whales and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Our findings challenge the typical ‘‘indicator species’’ approach routinely used and underscore the need to examine marine mammals at a species and population level for risk-based oil spill predictions. This conceptual framework can be combined with spill probabilities and volumes to develop more robust risk assessments and may be applied elsewhere to identify vulnerability themes for marine mammals.