[MARMAM] Paper announcement: Assessment of vessel disturbance to gray whales to inform sustainable ecotourism.

Florence Sullivan sullivan.florence.a at gmail.com
Thu Jun 21 09:30:01 PDT 2018

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the recent publication of our paper in the
Journal of Wildlife Management:

Sullivan, F. A. and Torres, L. G. (2018), Assessment of vessel disturbance
to gray whales to inform sustainable ecotourism. Jour. Wild. Mgmt., 82:
896-905. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21462 <https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21462>

The paper can be found online here: https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21462, or
we are happy to send you a pdf upon request.


Ecotourism is a movement that seeks to sustain local communities by uniting
conservation, travel, and education. To minimize effects on animal
behavior, ecotourism operations must be carefully managed. Local management
efforts that can be tailored to the specific area and animals may be more
successful than broad‐scale efforts that may be unknown to users of the
environment, or inappropriate for the species. A profitable and growing
whale‐watch industry exists in Oregon, USA, but prior to this project, no
state guidelines existed to protect animals and maintain sustainability of
the industry. This project integrated research and outreach regarding gray
whale (Eschrichtius robustus) behavioral response to vessels, and
translated results into community‐developed vessel operation guidelines. We
tracked whales and vessels in summer 2015 using non‐invasive, shore‐based
theodolite and photo identification techniques. We monitored 2 sites along
the Oregon coast with differing levels of vessel traffic for 4 weeks each.
We analyzed tracks of whales using Markov chains to assess behavior state
changes relative to location, individual, vessel presence, vessel type, and
distance between whale and vessel. We documented significant differences in
gray whale activity budgets between control and impact conditions, and
between study sites. We did not observe significant differences in
individual responses to vessel disturbance. Researchers and stakeholders
collaboratively applied these results to create scientifically informed
vessel operation guidelines that aim to balance the economic and
educational gains of a whale‐watch industry with adequate protection of the
exploited whale population to enhance sustainability.

Fair winds,

Florence Sullivan, MSc

Sullivan.Florence.a at gmail.com

Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute
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