Does a lack of observed beaked whale strandings in military exercise areas mean no impacts have occurred? A comparison of stranding and detection probabilities in the Canary and Hawaiian Islands
Faerber, M.M., and R.W. Baird. 2010. Does a lack of observed beaked whale strandings in military exercise areas mean no impacts have occurred? A comparison of stranding and detection probabilities in the Canary and Hawaiian Islands. Marine Mammal Science 26:602-613
Anthropogenic activities must be monitored to determine effects on marine mammal species, but the difficulty lies in how to measure impact. Mass strandings of beaked whales have occurred in association with naval exercises, with two species most affected, Cuvier’s (Ziphius cavirostris) and Blainville’s (Mesoplodon densirostris) beaked whales. Six such events have occurred in the Canary Islands but there have been no reported mass strandings in Hawai‘i. We assess the hypothesis that factors that influence the likelihood of strandings occurring and/or being detected differ between the Canary and main Hawaiian Islands, such that beaked whale stranding/detection probabilities will be lower in Hawai‘i. On an archipelago-wide basis, nearshore bathymetric comparisons indicate that the Canaries have a greater proportion and a total greater amount of appropriate beaked whale habitat closer to shore, with a steeper slope. Hawaiian shorelines are more dominated by steep cliffs, human population density is much lower, and human population per kilometer of shoreline is 53% lower than in the Canaries. All of these factors suggest that there is a higher probability of a carcass washing onshore and being detected in the Canary Islands. It cannot be concluded that the lack of mass strandings in Hawai‘i is evidence of no impact.