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Abundance and distribution of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) on the north coast of Anglesey, Wales, UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2008

Richard Shucksmith*
Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA
Nia H. Jones
Marine Awareness North Wales, 376 High Street, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 1YE
George W. Stoyle
Marine Awareness North Wales, 376 High Street, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 1YE
Andrew Davies
Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA
Emily F. Dicks
Marine Awareness North Wales, 376 High Street, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 1YE
Correspondence should be addressed to: Richard Shucksmith, Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA email:


A three year study was undertaken during 2002 to 2004 from May to September to estimate abundance and density of harbour porpoises on the north coast of Anglesey, Wales, UK. There were no ecological data regarding the harbour porpoises in Anglesey waters so the ability to influence conservation measures was highly constrained.

Boat based transects using distance sampling techniques were applied so a robust estimate of density and abundance could be attained. The study area consisted of a block approximately 489 km2 extending from the east of Point Lynas to the west of South Stack on north coast of Anglesey. The study area was divided into 5 blocks consisting of 31 perpendicular transect lines to the shore. Each of the transect lines were surveyed 1–5 times by the end of the three year study.

Based on the assumption that g(0) = 1 the density of harbour porpoises for the 489 km2 study site was estimated to be 0.630 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.20) and the abundance is estimated to be 309 individuals (CV = 0.20). Heterogeneity in density and abundance was observed across the 5 blocks which showed Point Lynas and South Stack to have the highest densities. This distribution was closely associated to fine-scale oceanographic features which cause prey to be concentrated and may facilitate foraging for harbour porpoises. The study showed that Anglesey provides coastal habitats for the harbour porpoise and was the first study of this kind in North Wales, UK.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2008

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