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Pilot cetacean survey of the sub-Arctic North Atlantic utilizing a cruise-ship platform

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2007

Ross Compton
Affiliation:
Research & Innovation, 17a Portland Villas, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK
Aaron Banks
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK
Lissa Goodwin
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK
Sascha K. Hooker
Affiliation:
Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, UK

Abstract

Using a large passenger cruise-ship (MV ‘Discovery’) as a platform, a cetacean survey was conducted between 1 August and 3 September 2005 across the northern North Atlantic Ocean and back, covering waters between the UK, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. The objective was to collect sightings data for all cetacean species encountered to begin to collate information for a large-scale sightings database. Two observers employed standard-distance sampling techniques and visual observations (naked eye) to scan for cetaceans during daylight hours and favourable weather conditions. Approximately 112 h were spent surveying over 23 d. A total of 13 cetacean species were encountered, with 173 separate sightings recorded, totalling over 2000 animals. The most commonly sighted species were minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata: N=44), Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus: N=34, with group sizes of up to 600), and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae: N=31). The distribution of minke whales, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and fin whales was linked to underlying oceanographic variables. Overall patterns of distribution were consistent with our understanding of the summer distributions for the species encountered. The survey highlighted the cetacean diversity of the northern North Atlantic region. Repeat work using this methodology will allow an examination of species' distributions and estimation of their relative abundance.

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

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