[MARMAM] New Publication: Critical Habitat of North Atlantic Right Whales in Canadian Waters

Kimberley Davies kim.davies at Dal.Ca
Tue Feb 18 01:24:59 PST 2014

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to announce a new publication.

Davies, KTA, Taggart, CT and Smedbol, RK. 2014. Water mass structure defines the diapausing
copepod distribution in a right whale habitat on the Scotian Shelf. MEPS 497: 69 - 85

ABSTRACT: North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis aggregate in Roseway Basin on the
western Scotian Shelf where their energy-rich food sources, diapausing copepods Calanus spp.,
are concentrated at depth. The Canadian Species at Risk Recovery Strategy for right whales pro-
vides provisional Critical Habitat (CH) boundaries for Roseway Basin based on right whale occu-
pancy, with the stipulation that the boundaries be refined using spatially explicit indicators of CH,
specifically the environmental, oceanographic, and bathymetric conditions responsible for the
copepod aggregations and distribution. We measured the concentration, energy density, spatial
distribution, and extent of the right whale food base and the related oceanography at depth in the
Basin during late-summer 2008 with the goal of refining the spatial extent of right whale CH. We
show that the diapausing copepods were distributed throughout the Basin, with elevated concen-
trations located at depth toward the northeast and along the southern Basin margin slope. The
aggregations were associated with warm, salty, high-density (26.0 to 26.2 ? t, kg m ?3 ), continental
slope-influenced water masses and not with cold, fresh, low-density (< 26.0 ? t ) water masses orig-
inating on the Scotian Shelf. Tidally driven variation in the copepod aggregations across the
southern slope was coincident with the movement of the 26.0 ? t isopycnal. We propose a mecha-
nism, based on water mass density and advection, that explains the spatial and temporal (e.g.
inter-annual) variation in diapausing Calanus energy density (joules per unit ocean volume) dis-
tribution, and by proxy, variation in right whale occupancy of the Basin. We further propose that
the provisional CH boundaries, partly conditioned on vessel-strike mitigation measures, be
extended to better encompass the critical feeding habitat. This could be achieved without compro-
mise regarding vessel traffic and existing vessel-strike mitigation.


Kimberley Davies

Postdoctoral Fellow

L'Institut Fran?ais de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer

Plouzan?, France

Contact: kimberley.davies at ifremer.fr
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