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Lakewood, WA, United States

Norman S.A.,University of California at Davis | Huggins J.,Cascadia Research Collective | Carpenter T.E.,University of California at Davis | Case J.T.,University of California at Davis | And 9 more authors.
Marine Mammal Science

In 2006-2007, an unusually high number of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) stranded along the Washington and Oregon coastlines. Spatiotemporal analyses were used to examine their ability to detect clusters of porpoise strandings during an unusual mortality event (UME) in the Pacific Northwest using stranding location data. Strandings were evaluated as two separate populations, outer coast and inland waters. The presence of global clustering was evaluated using the Knox spatiotemporal test, and the presence of local clusters was investigated using a spatiotemporal scan statistic (space-time permutation). There was evidence of global clustering, but no local clustering, supporting the hypothesis that strandings were due to more varied etiologies instead of localized causes. Further analyses at subregional levels, and concurrently assessing environmental factors, might reveal additional geographic distribution patterns. This article describes the spatial analytical tools applied in this study and how they can help elucidate the spatiotemporal epidemiology of other UMEs and assist in determining their causes. More than one spatial analytical technique should be used if the study objective is to detect and describe clustering in time and space and to generate hypotheses regarding causation of marine mammal disease and stranding events. © 2011 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy. Source

Ross P.S.,Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans | Noel M.,Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans | Noel M.,University of Victoria | Lambourn D.,801 Phillips Road SW | And 3 more authors.
Progress in Oceanography

As high trophic level, non-migratory marine mammals, harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) inhabiting the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound (collectively referred to as the Salish Sea) in northwestern North America provide an integrated measure of coastal food web contamination. We measured congener-specific polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated diphenylethers (PCDEs) and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) in blubber biopsies from free-ranging harbor seal pups inhabiting four sites in the Salish Sea in 2003. While legacy PCBs dominated the composition of these contaminants in seals at all sites (PCBs > PBDEs > PCDEs > PCNs), PBDEs were noteworthy in that they averaged as much as 59% of total PCB concentrations. We further evaluated temporal trends in seals sampled at one of these sites (Puget Sound) for PCBs and PBDEs between 1984 and 2009, and for PCDEs and PCNs between 1984 and 2003. PBDE concentrations doubled every 3.1. years between 1984 and 2003, but appeared to decline thereafter. Over the course of the 20. years between 1984 and 2003, PCB concentrations had declined by 81%, PCDEs declined by 71%, and PCNs by 98%. Overall, results suggest that regulations and source controls have noticeably reduced inputs of these contaminants to the Salish Sea, consequently reducing the associated health risks to marine wildlife. We estimate the total mass of these contaminants in the 53,000 harbor seals of the Salish Sea in 2009 to be 2.6. kg PCBs and 1.0. kg PBDEs, compared to just trace amounts of the PCDEs and PCNs. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Howard S.M.S.,Western Washington University | Howard S.M.S.,National Park Service | Lance M.M.,801 Phillips Road SW | Jeffries S.J.,801 Phillips Road SW | And 2 more authors.
Fishery Bulletin

The harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) is a large-bodied and abundant predator in the Salish Sea ecosystem, and its population has recovered since the 1970s after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the cessation of bounties. Little is known about how this large predator population may affect the recovery of fish stocks in the Salish Sea, where candidate marine protected areas are being proposed. We used a bioenergetics model to calculate baseline consumption rates in the San Juan Islands, Washington. Salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) and herring (Clupeidae) were the 2 most energetically important prey groups for biomass consumed by harbor seals. Estimated consumption of salmonids was 783 (±380 standard deviation [SD]) metric tons (t) in the breeding season and 675 (±388 SD t in the nonbreeding season. Estimated consumption of herring was 646 (±303 SD) t in the breeding season and 2151 (±706 SD) t in the nonbreeding season. Rockfish, a depressed fish stock currently in need of population recovery, composed one of the minor prey groups consumed by harbor seals (84 [±26 SD] t in the nonbreeding season). The variables of seal body mass and proportion of prey in seal diet explained >80% of the total variation in model outputs. Prey groups, such as rockfish, that are targeted for recovery may still be affected by even low levels of predation. This study highlights the importance of salmonids and herring for the seal population and provides a framework for refining consumption estimates and their confidence intervals with future data. Source

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