[MARMAM] NEW PAPER: Reef effect of offshore structures on the occurrence and foraging activity of harbour porpoises

Oihane Ne oihane.fdez at gmail.com
Wed Sep 21 10:32:31 PDT 2022


Dear MARMAM colleagues,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to share our recent
publication in Frontiers
in Marine Science "Reef effect of offshore structures on the occurrence and
foraging activity of harbour porpoises".

Fernandez-Betelu O, Graham IM and Thompson PM (2022) "Reef effect of
offshore structures on the occurrence and foraging activity of harbour
porpoises" Front. Mar. Sci. 9:980388. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.980388

The publication is open access and is available at:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2022.980388/full

Abstract: With increasing numbers of offshore structures being installed
and decommissioned, a better understanding of their effect on marine
predators is timely. There is some evidence that oil and gas platforms may
attract marine mammals, acting as artificial reefs. However, it is unclear
whether different man-made structure designs have similar effects or
whether artificial structures modify the diel patterns of occurrence and
foraging of marine mammals. Here, we used passive acoustics to investigate
the occurrence and foraging activity of harbour porpoises (*Phocoena
phocoena*) around four artificial structures of different age and
complexity. We deployed an array of echolocation click detectors (CPODs) in
2021, along a gradient of distances to these structures and assessed the
extent to which porpoises were attracted to them and their effect on
porpoises’ diel patterns of occurrence and foraging activity. The
probability of porpoise occurrence and foraging activity decreased with
distance from offshore structures. A significant increase in porpoise
occurrence and foraging was detected during night-time compared to daytime
around all four offshore structures (< 200 m). Comparing pre- and
post-installation porpoise detections, the daily patterns of occurrence and
foraging activity shifted from a weak diel pattern before the structure was
installed, to a strong nocturnal pattern when the structure was present.
These findings provide evidence that marine mammals are attracted to
man-made structures and that porpoises modify their diel patterns of
occurrence and foraging activity around them. This research suggests that
offshore structures play an important role as foraging areas for some
marine mammals and provides key information for decommissioning
considerations and the planning of decommissioning activities.
Please, do not hesitate to email me at oihane.fernandez at abdn.ac.uk if you
have any questions.

Best wishes,

*Dr Oihane Fernández-Betelu*

Research Fellow

Lighthouse Field Station,
Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences,
University of Aberdeen
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