Whalewatch: Real-Time Models for Dynamic Management of Blue Whales in the Pacific

Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 210G (San Jose Convention Center)
Elliott L. Hazen, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Grove, CA
Highly migratory species can been difficult to manage using spatial tools given their indifference for human imposed boundaries. Given many species undertake seasonal migrations, management approaches require data on how distribution and abundance change with time. Recent analyses of marine mammal ship-strike risk in the California Current have shown areas of high overlap between whale habitat and human uses. Here, we present a method for using satellite-tag data to develop real-time spatial management approaches (days-weeks), specifically estimating density of endangered blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) for use in establishing dynamic management areas. Using an extensive blue whale tag dataset (104 individuals from 1994-2008), we estimate year-round population density estimates based on modeled ecological relationships that incorporate seasonal changes in habitat, and will allow management approaches to more precisely minimize overlap with potentially harmful human activities. Our approach could be applied to other migratory species for which telemetry data is available, and emphasizes the utility of telemetry data for marine conservation and management.