Characterizing residence patterns of North Atlantic right whales in the southeastern U.S. with a multistate open robust design model

Endangered Species Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Effective conservation of endangered North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) requires information about their spatio-temporal distribution. Understanding temporal distribution is particularly important, because a portion of the population migrates between high latitude summer feeding grounds off the northeastern U.S. and Canadian Maritimes coasts and lower latitude calving and wintering grounds off the southeastern U.S. coast (SEUS). Here, we modeled SEUS residence patterns using photo-identification data from coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida from seven winter seasons (2004/2005 – 2010/2011). We used multistate open robust design models to evaluate effects of reproductive status, demographic group, and environmental conditions on SEUS residence. Model estimates accounted for temporal variation and imperfect detection and provided probabilities of entering the SEUS, staying in the SEUS, and being sighted. We also derived estimates for residence time and seasonal abundance. We observed staggered arrival and departure patterns and demographic differences in residence patterns that are characteristic of a differential migration strategy. Calving females arrived earliest and, in most seasons, had mean residence periods more than twice as long as other demographic groups. Conversely, adult males arrived the latest, and had the shortest residence times. Within-season, biweekly detection was positively influenced by survey effort, and seasonal detection rate estimates ranged from 0.83 ± 0.08 for non-calving adult females to 0.98 ± 0.02 for calving females. Results provide insights into right whale behavior, biology, and temporal distribution in the SEUS and can be used to evaluate spatially- and temporally- dynamic management measures.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Characterizing residence patterns of North Atlantic right whales in the southeastern U.S. with a multistate open robust design model
Series title Endangered Species Research
DOI 10.3354/esr00902
Volume 36
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Inter-Research
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 17 p.
First page 279
Last page 295
Country United States
State South Carolina, Georgia, Florida