[MARMAM] New publication on Salish Sea harbor porpoises

Cindy Elliser cindy.elliser at pacmam.org
Wed Jun 2 00:00:36 PDT 2021

On behalf of my co-author, Anna Hall, I am pleased to announce our recent
publication in Frontiers in Marine Science entitled, "Return of the Salish
Sea Harbor Porpoise, *Phocoena phocoena*: Knowledge Gaps, Current Research,
and What We Need to Do to Protect Their Future"

Abstract: The harbor porpoise (*Phocoena phocoena*) is one of the most
abundant coastal cetacean species in the Northern Hemisphere with
differential levels of regional knowledge. Gaps are particularly evident
for the Pacific subspecies Phocoena phocoena vomerina. In the Salish Sea (a
transboundary body of water spanning between Washington, United States and
British Columbia (BC), Canada), there is a dearth of information on many
aspects of the biology, ecology, behavior, sociality, and regionally
specific threats. Here we present a case study of the Salish Sea harbor
porpoise, combining historical and current research, from both BC and
Washington, to provide a more holistic view of this species’ status, the
knowledge continuum and gaps, risks from identified threats and what
current research and collaborations are revealing about this enigmatic
species. The Salish Sea harbor porpoise was abundant to the 1940s and
1950s, but by the 1990s their numbers were greatly reduced, and all but
absent in some areas. By the early 2000s, numbers had resurged, and harbor
porpoise are now once again found throughout much of the Salish Sea.
Despite this, studies focused on Salish Sea harbor porpoises have been
limited until recently. Current long-term research has been conducted from
vessels and land in both Canada and the United States. Multi-faceted work
using techniques including photo-identification (photo-ID), behavioral
visual observations, acoustics, commercial fishery surveys, sighting
reports, citizen science and other ecological data have provided insight
into the seasonal variation in density and abundance, site fidelity,
reproduction, by-catch rates, foraging and the identification of important
habitats that are used intra- and inter-annually in this region. These may
represent culturally and biologically significant habitats for Salish Sea
harbor porpoise. Collaborations within and outside of the Salish Sea have
revealed consistencies and dissimilarities between different communities or
populations; indicating that some aspects are more uniform for the species,
while others may be community or population specific. The importance of
long-term broad and fine-scale research is highlighted, as well as
recommendations to further close the knowledge gaps and reduce the known
human threats within the Salish Sea.

The publication is open access and can be found here:

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Cindy Elliser, PhD

Research Director

Pacific Mammal Research


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