[MARMAM] harbour porpoise paper

Frank Thomsen drthomsen at web.de
Tue Feb 28 00:37:19 PST 2006

Dear colleagues

Heres' a paper on harbour porpoises you might be interested in. It is published 'online first' in 'Helgoland Marine Research' (Springer) and can be downloaded from the journals' site at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10152-006-0021-z. For those having problems or any other requests, please contact me.



A recovery of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in the southern North Sea? A case study off Eastern Frisia, Germany

Frank Thomsen , Martin Laczny and Werner Piper


Detailed information on year-round distribution, seasonal abundance and inter-annual trends of a given species is essential for any conservation effort. However, for most odontocetes this knowledge is rather limited. Therefore, area-specific management or conservation plans are often difficult to argue for. This is also true for the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), although it is the most common cetacean species in the North Sea. Knowledge of the current status of local stocks as well as fine scale information on the temporal use of certain areas by the species is incomplete. One area of concern is the southern North Sea where the abundance of harbour porpoises has declined in the twentieth century. Recent studies using stranding data and observations from seabird surveys indicate a comeback of the species along the Dutch and Belgian coast. However, data on other regions of the southern North Sea is sparse. Between 2002 and 2004, we undertook 25 aerial line transect surveys (11,000 km on effort; altitude = 250 and 600 ft) in a 2,500 km2 coastal area off Eastern Frisia, Germany including a small portion of Dutch coastal waters. The data were g(0) corrected using a double platform approach and analysed with distance sampling software. A total of 426 harbour porpoises were sighted, including eight calves. Densities ranged between <0.1 and 1.62 individuals/km2 with peaks in February and July 2003 as well as February and May 2004. The results of our study show that harbour porpoises are present in the coastal part of the southern North Sea even during their reproductive period. However, they seem to appear in lower numbers and much more irregular than in other areas, for example off Northern Frisia. The results of this study support the recent findings that despite a decline in the mid-twentieth century, harbour porpoises are now at times quite abundant in the southern North Sea. The underlying factors of this ‘return’ should be investigated using a combination of surveys and satellite telemetry.


Dr. Frank Thomsen
biologisch-landschaftsökologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (biola)
Biozentrum Grindel
Universität Hamburg

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