New maps could reduce ship strikes

Written by on April 1, 2016 in Other News

Thanks in large part to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, marine mammals are some of the most well-protected species in the U.S. Regardless, they still face numerous threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, climate change, noise pollution, and ship strikes, just to name a few. New maps that include locations of whales and dolphins could help reduce some of these threats.

Gray whale mother and calf.

Gray whale mother and calf. Photo credit: NOAA.

Scientists created detailed maps that include seasonal migration patterns and population densities of 35 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises off the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

“These maps show where each species, or closely related group of species, is most likely to be at any given time of year,” Laura Mannocci, a postdoctoral research associate at Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory (MGEL), explained in a news release. “This makes it easier to monitor and manage them, and reduce the risk of harmful interactions.”

The maps include data from scientific surveys and sightings collected by researchers at five institutions over the last 23 years.

“Our maps give government agencies and other interested parties better tools to help protect these highly mobile animals and guide future ocean planning, including decisions about the siting of wind energy and oil and gas exploration along our coasts,” said lead researcher Jason J. Roberts, a research associate at MGEL.

In addition to reducing threats and contributing to effective ocean planning, the maps also confirmed key scientific findings, including the importance of the continental slope for pilot whale feeding, and the importance of underwater canyons and seamounts to sperm whales.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2016 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 MarineScienceToday.com. 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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