Effective management of marine mammal populations threatened by man-made impacts is particularly challenging for marine environments. Not only are these environments highly dynamic and difficult to observe, previous static management approaches have proven problematic or ineffective in marine environments, particularly for highly migratory species or for species undergoing distributional shifts due to climate change. Adaptive approaches are needed to effectively manage dynamic marine systems, and ecological forecasts can help managers anticipate when and where conservation issues are likely to arise in the future.
In a new Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article, authors Julia Stepanuk, Hyemi Kim, Janet Nye, Jason Roberts, Pat Halpin, Debra Palka, D Ann Pabst, William McLellan, Susan Barco, and Lesley Thorne demonstrate the usefulness of environmental forecasts for managing marine mammals by integrating species distribution models with subseasonal forecasts to predict the arrival of migratory humpback whales at foraging grounds in the Northeast US.
The study reveals high model skill and could skillfully predict arrival time of humpbacks 1–2 weeks in advance. The authors note whale distribution forecasts can shape management efforts to minimize both impacts on whales and economic costs. Additionally, in the future, forecasts of marine mammal distributions could be used to inform management decisions, plan management interventions, or improve currently existing dynamic management efforts to minimize impacts on marine mammals as well as fishers or managers.
Funding for this project was provided in part by the NOAA Climate Program Office, MAPP program
Read the full study here.