Designing a shipboard line transect survey to estimate cetacean abundance off the Azores Archipelago, Portugal
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Management schemes dedicated to the conservation of wildlife populations rely on the effective monitoring of population size, and this requires the accurate and precise estimation of abundance. The accuracy and precision of estimates are determined to a large extent by the survey design. Line transect surveys are commonly applied to wildlife population assessments in which the primary purpose of a survey design is to ensure that the critical distance sampling assumptions are met. Little information is available regarding cetacean abundance in the Archipelago of the Azores (Portugal). This study aims to design a line transect shipboard survey that allows the collection of data required to provide abundance estimates for such species. Several aspects must be taken into consideration when designing a survey to estimate cetacean abundance. This is an iterative process, and there is a constant trade off between the logistic constraints and the desired statistical robustness. Information on this process is provided to aid policy makers and environmental managers, such as the criteria used for the choices made when defining the elements of a survey design. Three survey effort scenarios are provided to illustrate the range of possibilities between statistical robustness and logistic/ management restrictions. A survey is designed for the more economical scenario (L=5000Km), although the second scenario is the one recommended to be implemented (L=17,600Km) given it provides robust estimates of abundance (CV<=0.2).