Marine protected area design and the spatial and temporal distribution of cetaceans in a submarine canyon.

Sascha K. Hooker, Hal Whitehead, and Shannon Gowans. 1999.

Conservation Biology. 13(3): 592-602.

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The Gully, the largest submarine canyon off the coast of eastern Canada, is currently under consideration as a marine conservation area, primarily because of the increasing interest in oil and gas production on the Scotian Shelf. Cetaceans, as a guild of abundant, large organisms that are relatively sensitive to such threats, provide a reliable means to determine the boundaries for a conservation area in this region. We compared the abundance of cetaceans between the Gully and other parts of the Scotian Shelf and Slope and found that abundance was higher in the Gully. We also assessed cetacean distribution and relative abundance within the Gully relative to search effort for several spatial and temporal parameters: depth, slope, sea surface temperature and month. Distribution within the Gully was most strongly correlated with depth, but was also significantly correlated with sea surface temperature and month. Five of the 11 cetacean species commonly found in the Gully, and all those for which the Gully formed significant habitat on the Scotian Shelf, were concentrated in the deep (200 - 2000 m) mouth of the canyon. We suggest that a year-round marine protected area is necessary for the Gully. A core protection zone should be defined in the Gully based on depth and bounded by the 200-m isobath. A buffer zone around the core zone should be defined to provide protection from activities with further-reaching effects, such as noise, dredging, and chemical pollution.

Links relating to a marine protected area in the Gully

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