Cetaceans are protected worldwide but vulnerable to incidental harm from an expanding array of human activities at sea. Managing potential hazards to these highly-mobile populations increasingly requires a detailed understanding of their seasonal distributions and habitats. Using distance sampling methodology, we built statistical models of cetacean density—the number of individual animals found per square kilometer of area—from environmental variables for 26 species and 3 multi-species guilds, and produced maps showing average density across the modeled region.
The Marine-life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT) is comprised of the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab (MGEL) of Duke University, the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Loyola University Chicago. MDAT works with regional ocean data portals, councils, and stakeholders to characterize and map marine life along the US Atlantic Coast. MDAT collaborations have produced individual species or species guild products for over a hundred species across three taxa: marine mammals, avian species, and fish species. MDAT also provides summary products that are built upon the individual species data layers to allow quick access to map summaries about potential biological, management, or sensitivity groups of interest. Types of summary products include total abundance or biomass, species richness, and species diversity indicies that can aid the user in seeing broad patterns in the underlying data or model results.
As human activities expand beyond national jurisdictions to the high seas, there is increasing need to consider anthropogenic impacts to species that inhabit these waters. The current scarcity of scientific observations of cetaceans in the high seas impedes the assessment of population-level impacts of these activities. The U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Area extends from a well-surveyed region within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone into a large region of the western North Atlantic sparsely surveyed for cetaceans. We modeled densities of 15 cetacean taxa using available line transect survey data and habitat covariates and extrapolated predictions to sparsely surveyed regions.