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Preliminary estimates of the abundance and fidelity of dolphins associating with a demersal trawl fishery

Allen, S.J., Pollock, K.H., Bouchet, P.J., Kobryn, H.T., McElligott, D.B., Nicholson, K.E., Smith, J.N. and Loneragan, N.R. (2017) Preliminary estimates of the abundance and fidelity of dolphins associating with a demersal trawl fishery. Scientific Reports, 7 (1).

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Abstract

The incidental capture of wildlife in fishing gear presents a global conservation challenge. As a baseline to inform assessments of the impact of bycatch on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) interacting with an Australian trawl fishery, we conducted an aerial survey to estimate dolphin abundance across the fishery. Concurrently, we carried out boat-based dolphin photo-identification to assess short-term fidelity to foraging around trawlers, and used photographic and genetic data to infer longer-term fidelity to the fishery. We estimated abundance at ≈ 2,300 dolphins (95% CI = 1,247–4,214) over the ≈ 25,880-km2 fishery. Mark-recapture estimates yielded 226 (SE = 38.5) dolphins associating with one trawler and some individuals photographed up to seven times over 12 capture periods. Moreover, photographic and genetic re-sampling over three years confirmed that some individuals show long-term fidelity to trawler-associated foraging. Our study presents the first abundance estimate for any Australian pelagic dolphin community and documents individuals associating with trawlers over days, months and years. Without trend data or correction factors for dolphin availability, the impact of bycatch on this dolphin population’s conservation status remains unknown. These results should be taken into account by management agencies assessing the impact of fisheries-related mortality on this protected species.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Nature
UNSD Goals: Goal 14: Conserve Marine Resources
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/37615
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