Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Zooplankton informatics: Using operational oceanography to save the whales

Andrew Pershing, Ph.D.
Cornell University

Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.

The northern right whale is one of the most endangered large whale populations. Although reproductive variability associated with availability of their zooplankton prey has likely limited population growth rates in recent years, the biggest threat to this species is mortality due to ship strikes and fishing gear. NOAA’s plan to reduce mortality depends on knowing when and where whales are likely to be. To support these efforts, we are developing a system to predict the movements of right whales in the Gulf of Maine based on the distribution of their prey. As field estimates of zooplankton abundance are rare and are not available on operational time scales, our forecasts must be based on our knowledge of how properties we can measure (SST and ocean color) influence the population dynamics of copepods. Our approach relies on using models, formal representations of our knowledge, to extract the maximum information from available data.

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