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Study maps human impacts on top ocean predators along US west coast
Date:10/28/2013

e study used tracking data for eight species of marine predators: blue whales, humpback whales, northern elephant seals, California sea lions, black-footed and Laysan albatrosses, sooty shearwaters, and leatherback sea turtles. These are among the 23 species whose movements have been tracked since 2000 as part of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program. The eight species included in the new study are ecologically important but are not commercially exploited, Maxwell said.

The TOPP studies showed that many marine predators travel thousands of miles every year, yet often concentrate within small-scale "hotspots" to breed or feed on fish and other prey. Many such hotspots are found within the California Current System.

Maxwell and her coauthors combined the TOPP tracking data with a database of human impacts in the California Current System that was developed by a group led by coauthor Benjamin Halpern at UC Santa Barbara. The relative impact on each species was determined for each of 24 stressors associated with human activities, such as fishing, shipping, climate change, and pollution. The analysis yielded maps showing where the greatest impacts on each species are likely to be.

"Areas where key habitats and human impacts overlap represent important areas for conservation efforts," Maxwell said. "In other cases, areas of high human activities are not key habitats for predators. As a result, we can maximize both conservation of marine predators and human uses that our coastal communities depend on."

The study suggests that protecting key habitat without considering human uses may result in missed opportunities for sustainable resource use. "Having this detailed spatial information will help us move toward a more sustainable management approach," said coauthor Elliott Hazen, a research biologist at UCSC and the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Providing information to support management and policy decision
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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert  

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