Sperm whale abundance estimates from acoustic surveys of the Ionian Sea and Straits of Sicily in 2003

Tim Lewis, Douglas Michael Gillespie, Claire Lacey, Justin Matthews, Magnus Danbolt, Russell Leaper, Richard McLanaghan, Anna Moscrop

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63 Citations (Scopus)


Acoustic surveys for sperm whales, using line-transect methodology, were carried out in the Ionian Sea and Straits of Silcily, Mediterranean Sea, in 2003. A total of 17 whales were detected along 3846 km of designed survey track in the Ionian Sea, and no whales along 892 km in the Straits of Sicily. This total was insufficient to estimate a detection function, so further data were obtained from quasi-random passages made elsewhere in the western Mediterranean in the same year. The encounters included several tight aggregations with inter-animal spacing less then 1 km, primarily from the western Mediterranean. Including individuals from these aggregations distorted the detection function due to the small sample seizes. No such aggregations were found during formal survey of the two areas of interest, and the aggregations were therefore excluded from detection function estimation. The resultant effective strip half-width was 10.0 km (n=40). On the assumption that g(0)=1, the resulting abundance estimates for the Ionian Sea were 62 (with 95% lognormal confidence limits of [24,165]), and 0 for the Straits of Sicily. The low abundance estimate for the Ionian Sea indicates that careful monitoring of the population is needed in the future. During passages along the Hellenic Trench, that were not part of the designed survey, several sperm whales including two aggregations were detected, suggesting that this may be a higher density area and out to be considered as a separate stratum when designing future surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-357
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


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