[MARMAM] Two new papers on wild marine mammal welfare

Laetitia Nunny laetitia.nunny at me.com
Fri Feb 28 03:37:00 PST 2020

Dear colleagues, 

We would like to bring your attention to two open-access papers that have just been published in the area of wild marine mammal welfare, a topic which has had relatively little attention in the past. 

“Anthropogenic Threats to Wild Cetacean Welfare and a Tool to Inform Policy in This Area” by Christine Nicol, Lars Bejder, Laura Green, Craig Johnson, Linda Keeling, Dawn Noren, Julie Van der Hoop and Mark Simmonds considers how welfare may be scientifically assessed. It is available from Frontiers: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00057/full <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00057/full> 

Human activities and anthropogenic environmental changes are having a profound effect on biodiversity and the sustainability and health of many populations and species of wild mammals. There has been less attention devoted to the impact of human activities on the welfare of individual wild mammals, although ethical reasoning suggests that the welfare of an individual is important regardless of species abundance or population health. There is growing interest in developing methodologies and frameworks that could be used to obtain an overview of anthropogenic threats to animal welfare. This paper shows the steps taken to develop a functional welfare assessment tool for wild cetaceans (WATWC) via an iterative process involving input from a wide range of experts and stakeholders. Animal welfare is a multidimensional concept, and the WATWC presented made use of the Five Domains model of animal welfare to ensure that all areas of potential welfare impact were considered. A pilot version of the tool was tested and then refined to improve functionality. We demonstrated that the refined version of the WATWC was useful to assess real-world impacts of human activity on Southern Resident killer whales. There was close within-scenario agreement between assessors as well as between-scenario differentiation of overall welfare impact. The current article discusses the challenges raised by assessing welfare in scenarios where objective data on cetacean behavioral and physiological responses are sparse and proposes that the WATWC approach has value in identifying important information gaps and in contributing to policy decisions relating to human impacts on whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

“Animal Welfare in Predator Control: Lessons from Land and Sea. How the management of terrestrial and marine mammals impacts wild animal welfare in human-wildlife conflict scenarios in Europe” by Laetitia Nunny argues for a better approach to measure the effectiveness and welfare impacts of predator control methods. It can be found in a special edition of the journal Animals entitled “Welfare of Wild Vertebrates": https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/2/218 <https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/2/218>

The control of predators, on land and in the sea, is a complex topic. Both marine and terrestrial mammal predators come into conflict with humans in Europe in many ways and yet their situations are rarely compared. Areas of conflict include the predation of livestock and farmed fish, and the perceived competition for wild prey (for example wolves competing with hunters for deer and seals competing with fishermen for salmon). A lethal method (shooting) and non-lethal methods of conflict reduction (including enclosures, guarding, and aversion) used for terrestrial large carnivores (e.g., bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx) and marine mammals (seals) are discussed. Control measures tend to be species- and habitat-specific, although shooting is a widely used method. Potential impacts on predator welfare are described and welfare assessments which have been developed for other wildlife control scenarios, e.g., control of introduced species, are considered for their potential use in assessing predator control. Such assessments should be applied before control methods are chosen so that decisions prioritizing animal welfare can be made. Further work needs to be carried out to achieve appropriate and widely-accepted animal welfare assessment approaches and these should be included in predator management planning. Future research should include further sharing of approaches and information between terrestrial and marine specialists to help ensure that animal welfare is prioritized.

We hope you find these articles interesting and useful. 

Kind regards

Laetitia Nunny (https://wildanimalwelfare.com <https://wildanimalwelfare.com/>)
laetitia.nunny at me.com <mailto:laetitia.nunny at me.com>

Mark Simmonds (Humane Society International)
mark.simmonds at sciencegyre.co.uk

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