Highly migratory species can cross ocean basins and oceanic boundaries while traveling from foraging to breeding grounds, making traditional spatial management approaches difficult. Blue whales are seasonal visitors to the California Current System that target a single prey resource, krill, and migrate large distances to find and exploit these ephemeral prey patches. In order to meet their extreme energetic demands, blue whales must interact with their environment at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Thus, successful management requires improved understanding of how fine-scale foraging ecology translates to broad-scale movement patterns and population response. Although up for debate, sub-lethal stressors such as anthropogenic noise and climate change, and lethal factors such as ship strikes, may be limiting recovery and can be difficult to account for in current management strategies.
Our recent research uses an extensive data set of fine-scale accelerometers and broad-scale satellite tags deployed on Northeast Pacific blue whales to examine the energetics of foraging at a fine scale, potential overlap with human risk at a broad scale, and projections of changes in foraging habitat expected under climate change. In addition, we found that local foraging hotspots such as Monterey Bay can depend on the upstream and downstream prey resources. We propose tag data can be extremely valuable for establishing dynamic management approaches to account for daily-to-seasonal ecological processes, to minimize anthropogenic risks, and to ensure management approaches are adaptable to long-term, climate-driven changes in habitat.
Speaker: Elliot Hazen, NOAA and UC Santa Cruz
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