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Identifying key habitat and seasonal patterns of a critically endangered population of killer whales

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2013

Ruth Esteban*
Affiliation:
CIRCE, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans, C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain
Philippe Verborgh
Affiliation:
CIRCE, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans, C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain
Pauline Gauffier
Affiliation:
CIRCE, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans, C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain
Joan Giménez
Affiliation:
GEMA, Grupo de Ecología Marina Aplicada, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC; C/Americo Vespucio, s/n, 41092, Isla de la Cartuja, Sevilla, Spain
Isabel Afán
Affiliation:
LAST, Laboratorio de SIG y Teledetección, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC; C/Americo Vespucio, s/n, 41092, Isla de la Cartuja, Sevilla, Spain
Ana Cañadas
Affiliation:
Alnilam Research and Conservation, Cándamo 116, 28240 Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, Spain
Pedro García
Affiliation:
ANSE Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste Plaza Pintor José María Párraga, 11, Bajo, 30002, Murcia, Spain
Jose Luis Murcia
Affiliation:
ANSE Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste Plaza Pintor José María Párraga, 11, Bajo, 30002, Murcia, Spain
Sara Magalhães
Affiliation:
MAR ILIMITADO Porto da Baleeira de Sagres, 8650-368 Sagres, Portugal
Ezequiel Andreu
Affiliation:
TURMARES (Turísmo Maritimo del Estrecho), Avd/Alcalde Juan Nuñez 3, 11380 Tarifa, Cadiz, Spain
Renaud de Stephanis
Affiliation:
GEMA, Grupo de Ecología Marina Aplicada, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC; C/Americo Vespucio, s/n, 41092, Isla de la Cartuja, Sevilla, Spain
*
Correspondence should be addressed to: R. Esteban, CIRCE, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans, C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain email: ruth@circe.info

Abstract

Killer whales have been described in the Gulf of Cadiz, southern Spain, in spring and in the Strait of Gibraltar in summer. A total of 11,276 cetaceans sightings coming from different sources (dedicated research surveys, whale watching companies and opportunistic observations) were used to create two presence–‘pseudo-absence’ predictive generalized additive models (GAM), where presence data were defined as sightings of killer whales and ‘pseudo-absence’ data as sightings of other cetacean species. One model was created using spring data when killer whales’ main prey, Atlantic bluefin tuna, enter the Mediterranean Sea, and the other model used summer data when Atlantic bluefin tuna return to the Atlantic Ocean. Both model predictions show that killer whales are highly associated with a probable distribution of bluefin tuna during their migration throughout the study area, constraining their distribution to the Gulf of Cadiz in spring and the Strait of Gibraltar in spring and summer. Knowledge of the distribution of killer whales in the study area is essential to establish conservation measures for this population.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2013 

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