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Geographical and seasonal variation of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) presence in the German Baltic Sea revealed by passive acoustic monitoring

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2007

Ursula K. Verfuß
Affiliation:
German Oceanographic Museum, Katharinenberg 14/20, 18439 Stralsund, Germany
Christopher G. Honnef
Affiliation:
German Oceanographic Museum, Katharinenberg 14/20, 18439 Stralsund, Germany
Anja Meding
Affiliation:
German Oceanographic Museum, Katharinenberg 14/20, 18439 Stralsund, Germany
Michael Dähne
Affiliation:
German Oceanographic Museum, Katharinenberg 14/20, 18439 Stralsund, Germany
Roger Mundry
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany Research and Technology Centre, University of Kiel, Hafentörn, 25761 Büsum, Germany
Harald Benke
Affiliation:
German Oceanographic Museum, Katharinenberg 14/20, 18439 Stralsund, Germany

Abstract

The harbour porpoise is the only resident cetacean species in the German Baltic Sea. Within the last several decades this harbour porpoise stock declined drastically, causing deep concern about its status. Plans of the German government for proposing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to implement Natura 2000 and for assessing the impact of offshore windmill constructions on the marine environment led to an increased research effort on the harbour porpoise in German waters. For the first time, long-term passive acoustic monitoring has been conducted in the German Baltic Sea from the Kiel Bight to the Pomeranian Bay from August 2002 to December 2005. Porpoise detectors (T-PODs) have been installed five to seven metres below the water surface at up to 42 measuring positions throughout the investigated area, registering the exact times of echolocation signals of passing harbour porpoises. The proportion of monitored days with porpoise detection in each quarter of the years has been analysed. A correlation of the results with the longitude of the measuring position revealed a significant decrease from west to east in the percentage of days with porpoise detections. Comparison of data gathered in the first quarters with the third quarters of the monitoring years displayed a seasonal variation with fewer days of porpoise detections in winter time than in summer time. Nevertheless, harbour porpoises have been detected year-round at most of the measuring positions in the German Baltic Sea. The present study clearly indicates a regular use of the German Baltic Sea by harbour porpoises with a geographical and seasonal variation in the usage of the German Baltic Sea. The larger numbers of harbour porpoise detections in spring to autumn compared with winter suggests that the German Baltic Sea is an important breeding and mating area for these animals.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2007 Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

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Geographical and seasonal variation of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) presence in the German Baltic Sea revealed by passive acoustic monitoring
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