Importance of biological parameters in assessing the status of Delphinus delphis

Sinead Murphy, Arliss Winship, Willy Dabin, Paul D. Jepson, Rob Deaville, Robert J. Reid, Chris Spurrier, Emer Rogan, Alfredo Lopez, Angel F. Gonzalez, Fiona L. Read, Marjan Addink, Monica Silva, Vincent Ridoux, Jennifer A. Learmonth, Graham J. Pierce, Simon P. Northridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Short-beaked common dolphins Delphinus delphis in the eastern North Atlantic (ENA) Eire subject to mortality due to entanglement in various types of fishing gear. However, for this region, there is no population-level information available on trends in abundance, (incidental) mortality rates or even the actual distributional range. Working under the assumption that only 1 population exists in ENA waters, the current study presents basic life history data and investigates whether biological information obtained from postmortem data is, in itself, useful for managing this population. Life history parameters were estimated by analysing postmortem data obtained over a 16 yr period by UK, Irish, French, Galician (northwest Spain) and Portuguese stranding and bycatch observer programmes. An annual pregnancy rate of 26%, a calving interval of 3.79 yr, an average age attained at sexual maturity of 8.22 yr and an average length at sexual maturity of 188 cm were determined. With respect to the findings based solely on mortality data, significance testing failed to detect differences that could be construed as evidence of the population exhibiting what might be density-dependent compensatory responses. The low annual pregnancy rate reported throughout the sampling period may suggest either that the level of anthropogenic mortality did not cause a substantial population level decline, or a prey base declining at approximately the same rate as the dolphin population. However, this approach alone does not facilitate an assessment of the current state of the D. delphis population in the ENA. Population abundance estimates, trends in abundance and knowledge of factors that affect the dynamics of the population, such as annual mortality rates in fisheries, temporal variations in prey abundance and effects of contaminants on reproductive activity, are required not only to set management objectives, but also to give context to cross-sectional life history information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-291
Number of pages19
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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