Animal Counting Toolkit : a practical guide to small-boat surveys for estimating abundance of coastal marine mammals
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Small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) face serious anthropogenic threats in coastal habitats. These include bycatch in fisheries; exposure to noise, plastic and chemical pollution; disturbance from boaters; and climate change. Generating reliable abundance estimates is essential to assess sustainability of bycatch in fishing gear or any other form of anthropogenic removals and to design conservation and recovery plans for endangered species. Cetacean abundance estimates are lacking from many coastal waters of many developing countries. Lack of funding and training opportunities makes it difficult to fill in data gaps. Even if international funding were found for surveys in developing countries, building local capacity would be necessary to sustain efforts over time to detect trends and monitor biodiversity loss. Large-scale, shipboard surveys can cost tens of thousands of US dollars each day. We focus on methods to generate preliminary abundance estimates from low-cost, small-boat surveys that embrace a ‘training-while-doing’ approach to fill in data gaps while simultaneously building regional capacity for data collection. Our toolkit offers practical guidance on simple design and field data collection protocols that work with small boats and small budgets, but expect analysis to involve collaboration with a quantitative ecologist or statistician. Our audience includes independent scientists, government conservation agencies, NGOs and indigenous coastal communities, with a primary focus on fisheries bycatch. We apply our Animal Counting Toolkit to a small-boat survey in Canada’s Pacific coastal waters to illustrate the key steps in collecting line transect survey data used to estimate and monitor marine mammal abundance.
Williams , R , Ashe , E E , Gaut , K , Gryba , R , Moore , J E , Rexstad , E , Sandilands , D , Steventon , J & Reeves , R 2017 , ' Animal Counting Toolkit : a practical guide to small-boat surveys for estimating abundance of coastal marine mammals ' Endangered Species Research , vol 34 , pp. 149-165 . DOI: 10.3354/esr00845
Endangered Species Research
© The authors and, outside the USA, the US Government 2017. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are un restricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.
The authors thank Synchronicity Earth, Marisla Foundation, and the US Marine Mammal Commission for seed funding for this program.
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