Biologically Important Areas to “Reduce Adverse Impacts” on Cetaceans

Written by on March 11, 2015 in Policy & Ocean Law, Whales & Dolphins

Researchers recently identified 131 areas within U.S. waters that should be considered “biologically important” when making management decisions about human activities that could affect cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). These Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) cover 24 species, stocks, or populations in seven regions of the U.S.

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin. Photo credit: NOAA SEFSC.

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin. Photo credit: NOAA SEFSC.

“The goal was to identify when and where cetaceans engage in activities that are important to the animal’s physical health and fitness, reproduction and ability to survive as a population,” Sofie Van Parijs, head of the passive acoustics group at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), said in a news release. “Scientists and managers can use the information provided about BIAs to help with planning, analyses and decisions regarding how to reduce adverse impacts on cetaceans resulting from human activities.”

Areas of the biggest concern include offshore energy development, military testing and training, shipping, fishing, tourism, and coastal construction.

BIAs can also be used to identify information gaps and help prioritize future research efforts aimed at better understand cetaceans and their habitats. They are described in a special edition of the journal Aquatic Mammals. Each has a written narrative, a map, a list of references, and a table of data that includes the information used to define the BIA. BIAs include reproductive and feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas where small populations are concentrated.

“The BIAs are meant to be living documents that should be reviewed, revised and expanded as new information becomes available,” said Van Parijs, who is also the guest editor of the special issue. “They are not marine protected areas, and have no direct or immediate regulatory consequences. They represent the best available information about the times and areas in which species are likely to be engaged in biologically important activities. We encourage anyone planning an activity in the ocean to look at this information and take it into consideration to understand and reduce adverse impacts on marine species.”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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