Spatial use by odontocetes satellite tagged off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 2016


Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, Z.T. Swaim, H.J. Foley, D.B. Anderson, and A.J. Read. 2017. Spatial Use by Odontocetes Satellite Tagged off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 2016. Final Report. Prepared for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Submitted to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia, under Contract No. N62470-15-D-8006, Task Order 28, issued to HDR Inc., Virginia Beach, Virginia. August 2017.


In 2014 a study was initiated off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to examine the spatial use and diving behavior of a number of species of odontocetes, with particular emphasis on Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). During 2014 and 2015, remotely deployed Low-Impact Minimally Percutaneous External-electronics Transmitter (LIMPET) satellite tags were used to obtain movement data from 9 Cuvier’s beaked whales, 35 short-finned pilot whales, 9 common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus, hereafter bottlenose dolphins), 1 sperm whale (Physeter microcephalus) and 1 short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), ranging over periods from 1.3 to 193.8 days (Baird et al. 2015, 2016; Foley et al. 2015a; Thorne et al. 2015). This report summarizes information obtained through additional field efforts undertaken in 2016, while incorporating results from the first two years of effort. The present work is intended to complement ongoing research by Duke University off Cape Hatteras (hereinafter referred to as the Duke program) by providing information on the movement and diving behavior of these species over the medium term (weeks to months). The Duke program is focusing on shorter-term dive behavior (i.e., hours to days) using Digital Acoustic Tags and longer-term movements (i.e., months to years) using photo-identification (photo-ID) techniques (Swaim et al. 2014). The photo-ID work has demonstrated a high degree of re-sightings, particularly of shortfinned pilot whales, suggesting some residency in the Cape Hatteras Study Area. Attempts were made in the field to obtain digital images of all tagged animals to ensure that linkages could be drawn between the photo-ID and satellite tagging work. Photographic matches of tagged animals and their associates are presented in the annual report of the Duke program (Foley et al. 2015b, 2016, 2017a).

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