Combining power analysis and population viability analysis to compare traditional and precautionary approaches to conservation of coastal cetaceans

PM Thompson, B Wilson, Kate Grellier, Philip Steven Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Traditionally, marine resources have been managed such that controls on new developments are implemented only when harmful effects on other environmental or economic interests can be demonstrated This approach poses particular problems for the conservation of coastal cetaceans because potential threats to their populations are diverse and likely to interact, individual threats may result from multiple sources, and the problems inherent in studying cetaceans result in considerable scientific uncertainty and low statistical power to detect any effects. Consequently, many countries are adopting integrated coastal management programs and precautionary management principles. In practice, however, issues continue to be dealt with within traditional frameworks that require demonstration of harm. Because cetaceans are long-lived, they demand long-term studies, and populations could decline to dangerously low levels before management action is taken. We illustrate these Problems using a case study from the Moray Firth Scotland. This inshore area will soon be designated and managed as a "special area of conservation" to protect bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) under the European Community's Habitats Directive. The population is small and isolated, and it faces a wide range of potential threats, but there remains considerable uncertainty over the magnitude of each threat. We combined power analysis and population viability analysis to explore the relative consequences of adopting either traditional or precautionary approaches to management. In this case, our results reaffirm the need for precautionary management. More generally, we illustrate how this approach can be used to provide a more scientific basis for determining the level of precaution required to address particular management issues in this and other marine systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1263
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2000




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