Speaker: Caren Braby, ODFW, Kelly Corbett, ODFW, Amanda Gladics OR Sea Grant, and Leigh Torres, MMI OSU
Topic: Collaborative assessment of whale overlap with fishing gear informs fishery regulations in Oregon
Reports of whale entanglements in fishing gear have been significantly elevated in US West Coast waters since 2015, with Serious Injury and Mortality (SIM) of federally protected humpback, gray, and blue whales. Managers, researchers, fishermen, and the environmental community in Oregon are concerned about this situation because whale entanglements threaten both whale populations and the stability of the Dungeness crab fishery and our coastal communities. To reduce whale entanglement rates, our project goal is to spatially and temporally evaluate entanglement risk in Oregon waters to inform management decisions regarding fishery regulations. To achieve this goal we must first fill a critical knowledge gap on whale distribution in Oregon waters. Hence, we teamed up with the United States Coast Guard helicopter divisions in Oregon to conduct repeat surveys along the Oregon coast four times a month for two years. Since March 2019 we have conducted 49 surveys, recording over 150 sightings of 4 whale species. We are also asking ocean users of all types (i.e., fishermen, scientists, USCG, tug boat captains) to become citizen scientists and collect opportunistic whale sightings data using the mobile app Whale Alert. With these data, our next step will be to develop species distribution models to describe the habitat use and distribution patterns of whales off the Oregon coast. We will build predictive distribution models to describe where we expect whales to be under certain environmental conditions. We will then compare these distribution maps to information of when and where fishermen deploy their gear, leading to the identification of areas and time of year with high and low risk of whale entanglement. We will describe how information from this project is being integrated into the development of policies and regulations by ODFW, which are being designed to both effect conservation benefits for whales as well as economic viability of fishery harvest.
Thursday, May 28 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm
Hatfield Marine Science Center
2030 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, OR 97365