Identifying priority areas to enhance monitoring of cetaceans in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Identifying priority areas to enhance monitoring of cetaceans in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Species Distribution Models (SDM) were used to predict and identify priority areas for enhanced monitoring of cetaceans in eastern Canadian waters off Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. This data set represents information presented in Gomez et al. (2020) and includes sighting records and SDM outputs for ten cetacean species with sufficient records (n > 450) and sightings only for an additional six species. For more information about sighting records including which were included in each SDM, please see Gomez et al. 2020. This study used a compilation of aerial- and vessel-based cetacean sightings data from 1975-2015 assembled in Gomez et al. (2017) from variety of sources. Note that sightings data from many of these sources are not effort-corrected and apparent distribution patterns based on these opportunistic sightings data are biased by when and where survey activities were conducted. Unfavorable weather and reduced visual effort in winter, spring, and autumn likely account for the fewer sighting records in these seasons compared to summer. The dataset does not include dead animal, stranding, entanglement or entrapment data. While some of the databases include records obtained during the whaling period (catches or sightings recorded prior to 1975), for all analyses/modelling conducted in this study, only sightings of free-swimming whales obtained during the post-whaling period (1975-2015) were used. Quality control checks included discarding all records outside of our study area and removing redundant records (identical species, day, month, latitude and longitude).The data used do not reflect any updates or corrections to the databases that have occurred since the data were compiled in 2016. Sightings are not available for download here, please contact the original data sources listed below to obtain raw sightings data. This study represents an important initiative in eastern Canada to highlight key areas for cetacean monitoring in waters off Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Habitats with high suitability are interpreted as areas where cetacean monitoring efforts may be prioritized, and results can help direct future survey efforts. These model outputs used cetacean sightings from several decades and dynamic environmental predictors that used seasonal averages across multiple years. As proxies for prey availability, five predictor environmental variables were selected for the SDM: ocean depth, compound topographic index, sea surface temperature, areas of persistently high chlorophyll-a concentration, and regional chlorophyll-a magnitude. See Gomez et al. (2020) for further details on modelling methods. Persistent patterns over time (between 1975-2015) are the main patterns expected to be captured by these models. Further, SDM results presented here are not the same as species density maps; rather, they portray predicted suitable habitat based on environmental characteristics and sightings data that were not always derived from effort-based surveys. Consequently, the use of these models in marine spatial planning processes should be accompanied by complimentary approaches such as acoustic and visual validation of the SDM results as well as additional monitoring and modeling efforts. Please refer to Gomez et al. (2020) for examples on how to best use these data outputs. Future efforts will focus on using more recent data and improving these models to facilitate the inclusion of cetaceans in marine spatial planning processes that are currently underway. Data sources: Fisheries and Oceans Canada Maritimes region and Newfoundland and Labrador region (Whale Sightings Database, Ocean and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Dartmouth, NS; http://www.inter.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Maritimes/SABS/popec/sara/Database, MacDonald et. al. 2017) Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS; http://www.iobis.org/), North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC; http://www.narwc.org/) Whitehead Lab at Dalhousie University (http://whitelab.biology.dal.ca/) Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (Canadian Wildlife Service) Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS) program (Gjerdrum et al. 2012). References: Gomez, C., Konrad, C.M., Vanderlaan, A., Moors-Murphy, H.B., Marotte, E., Lawson, J., Kouwenberg, A-L., Fuentes-Yaco, C., Buren, A. 2020. Identifying priority areas to enhance monitoring of cetaceans in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3370: vi + 103 p. http://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/40869155.pdf Gomez C, Lawson J, Kouwenberg A, Moors-Murphy H, Buren A, Fuentes-Yaco C, Marotte E, Wiersma YF, Wimmer T. 2017. Predicted distribution of whales at risk: identifying priority areas to enhance cetacean monitoring in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Endangered Species Research 32:437-458 https://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esr/v32/p437-458/ Gjerdrum, C., D.A. Fifield, and S.I. Wilhelm. 2012. Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS) standardized protocol for pelagic seabird surveys from moving and stationary platforms. 31 Canadian Wildlife Service Technical Report Series No. 515. Atlantic Region. vi + 37 p. MacDonald, D., Emery, P., Themelis, D., Smedbol, R.K., Harris, L.E., and McCurdy, Q. 2017. Marine mammal and pelagic animal sightings (Whalesightings) database: a user’s guide. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3244: v + 44 p. 2023-07-11 Fisheries and Oceans Canada Hilary.Moors-Murphy@dfo-mpo.gc.ca Nature and EnvironmentScience and TechnologyOceans Technical ReportPDF https://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/40869155.pdf Data DictionaryCSV https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Priority_Areas_for_Cetacean_Monitoring/Cetaceans_DataDictionary.csv Priority areas for cetacean monitoringTIFF https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Priority_Areas_for_Cetacean_Monitoring/Cetaceans_Tiff.zip Priority areas for cetacean monitoringFGDB/GDB https://pacgis01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/FGPPublic/Priority_Areas_for_Cetacean_Monitoring/Cetaceans.zip Priority areas for cetacean monitoringESRI REST https://gisp.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/arcgis/rest/services/FGP/Priority_Areas_for_Cetacean_Monitoring_En/MapServer Priority areas for cetacean monitoringESRI REST https://gisp.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/arcgis/rest/services/FGP/Priority_areas_for_cetacean_monitoring_Fr/MapServer

Species Distribution Models (SDM) were used to predict and identify priority areas for enhanced monitoring of cetaceans in eastern Canadian waters off Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. This data set represents information presented in Gomez et al. (2020) and includes sighting records and SDM outputs for ten cetacean species with sufficient records (n > 450) and sightings only for an additional six species. For more information about sighting records including which were included in each SDM, please see Gomez et al. 2020.

This study used a compilation of aerial- and vessel-based cetacean sightings data from 1975-2015 assembled in Gomez et al. (2017) from variety of sources. Note that sightings data from many of these sources are not effort-corrected and apparent distribution patterns based on these opportunistic sightings data are biased by when and where survey activities were conducted. Unfavorable weather and reduced visual effort in winter, spring, and autumn likely account for the fewer sighting records in these seasons compared to summer. The dataset does not include dead animal, stranding, entanglement or entrapment data. While some of the databases include records obtained during the whaling period (catches or sightings recorded prior to 1975), for all analyses/modelling conducted in this study, only sightings of free-swimming whales obtained during the post-whaling period (1975-2015) were used. Quality control checks included discarding all records outside of our study area and removing redundant records (identical species, day, month, latitude and longitude).The data used do not reflect any updates or corrections to the databases that have occurred since the data were compiled in 2016. Sightings are not available for download here, please contact the original data sources listed below to obtain raw sightings data.

This study represents an important initiative in eastern Canada to highlight key areas for cetacean monitoring in waters off Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Habitats with high suitability are interpreted as areas where cetacean monitoring efforts may be prioritized, and results can help direct future survey efforts. These model outputs used cetacean sightings from several decades and dynamic environmental predictors that used seasonal averages across multiple years. As proxies for prey availability, five predictor environmental variables were selected for the SDM: ocean depth, compound topographic index, sea surface temperature, areas of persistently high chlorophyll-a concentration, and regional chlorophyll-a magnitude. See Gomez et al. (2020) for further details on modelling methods. Persistent patterns over time (between 1975-2015) are the main patterns expected to be captured by these models. Further, SDM results presented here are not the same as species density maps; rather, they portray predicted suitable habitat based on environmental characteristics and sightings data that were not always derived from effort-based surveys. Consequently, the use of these models in marine spatial planning processes should be accompanied by complimentary approaches such as acoustic and visual validation of the SDM results as well as additional monitoring and modeling efforts. Please refer to Gomez et al. (2020) for examples on how to best use these data outputs. Future efforts will focus on using more recent data and improving these models to facilitate the inclusion of cetaceans in marine spatial planning processes that are currently underway.

Data sources:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Maritimes region and Newfoundland and Labrador region (Whale Sightings Database, Ocean and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Dartmouth, NS; http://www.inter.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Maritimes/SABS/popec/sara/Database, MacDonald et. al. 2017)

Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS; http://www.iobis.org/),

North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC; http://www.narwc.org/)

Whitehead Lab at Dalhousie University (http://whitelab.biology.dal.ca/)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (Canadian Wildlife Service) Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS) program (Gjerdrum et al. 2012).

References:

Gomez, C., Konrad, C.M., Vanderlaan, A., Moors-Murphy, H.B., Marotte, E., Lawson, J.,

Kouwenberg, A-L., Fuentes-Yaco, C., Buren, A. 2020. Identifying priority areas to

enhance monitoring of cetaceans in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Can. Tech. Rep.

Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3370: vi + 103 p. http://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/40869155.pdf

Gomez C, Lawson J, Kouwenberg A, Moors-Murphy H, Buren A, Fuentes-Yaco C, Marotte E, Wiersma YF, Wimmer T. 2017. Predicted distribution of whales at risk: identifying priority areas to enhance cetacean monitoring in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Endangered Species Research 32:437-458 https://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esr/v32/p437-458/

Gjerdrum, C., D.A. Fifield, and S.I. Wilhelm. 2012. Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS) standardized protocol for pelagic seabird surveys from moving and stationary platforms. 31 Canadian Wildlife Service Technical Report Series No. 515. Atlantic Region. vi + 37 p.

MacDonald, D., Emery, P., Themelis, D., Smedbol, R.K., Harris, L.E., and McCurdy, Q. 2017. Marine mammal and pelagic animal sightings (Whalesightings) database: a user’s guide. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3244: v + 44 p.

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Data and Resources

Geographic Information

Spatial Feature

Contact Information

Delivery Point: Bedford Institute of Oceanography, 1 Challenger Drive, PO Box 1006

City: Dartmouth

Administrative Area: Nova Scotia

Postal Code: B2Y 4A2

Country: Canada

Electronic Mail Address: Hilary.Moors-Murphy@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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