Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Technical Memorandum
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8743
Title: Predictive Mapping of Seabirds, Pinnipeds and Cetaceans off the Pacific Coast of Washington
Author/Editor: Charles W. Menza, Jeffery Leirness, T. M. White, A. Winship, Brian P. Kinlan, L. Kracker, J. E. Zamon, Lisa T. Ballance, Elizabeth A. Becker, Karin A. Forney, Jay Barlow, Josh Adams, David Pereksta, Scott F. Pearson, J. Pierce, Steven J. Jeffries, J. Calambokidis, A. Douglas, M. B. Hanson, Scott Benson, Liam Antrim
Publication Year: 2016
Tech Memo Number: NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 210
Pages: 96
Date: March 2016

This report presents long-term seasonal distribution maps of selected seabird, pinniped, and cetacean species off the Pacific coast of Washington. The maps were created to support state-led marine spatial planning and responsible stewardship of natural and cultural resources by Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. They are intended to distinguish persistent areas of high relative density from areas of low relative density, which are useful to identify ecologically important areas, recognize and mitigate impacts from human uses and coastal hazards, and improve our understanding of marine communities.

Predicted relative density distribution maps were constructed using associative models linking at-sea species observations with environmental covariates. Associative models relied on species observations compiled from federal, state, and non-governmental monitoring programs with data between 1995 and 2014. Environmental variables, such as depth, sea surface temperature, and indices of primary productivity, were processed from long-term archival satellite, oceanographic, and hydrographic databases.

The compilation of at-sea observations represents the first attempt to combine eleven selected survey programs, a substantial combination of nearshore and offshore survey effort. As far as we are aware, the compilation prepared for this report is the largest synthesis of recent seabird, pinniped, and cetacean observations in the study area, in terms of both number of observations and number of programs combined.

A boosted generalized additive modeling framework was applied to associate seabird and environmental covariate data sets and develop contiguous, accurate predictions of relative density. To improve model performance the modeling framework allowed for flexible relationships and multi-way interactions between environmental variables while accounting for sampling heterogeneity between and within datasets.

Model performance was assessed using cross validation and a range of model fit and bias diagnostics. All models showed very good to fair performance based on model performance diagnostics, and expert reviewers agreed all maps were good representations of species distributions at coarse spatial scales. Reviewers included ecologists, coastal resource managers, and modelers from multiple agencies and organizations.

These maps represent an important step towards improving our understanding of the long-term spatial distributions of many important seabirds, pinnipeds, and cetaceans, identifying persistent hotspots of relative densities, and more effectively planning offshore human activities. The seabird, pinniped, and cetacean predictions are already being used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify ecologically important areas off the Pacific Coast of Washington, and apply this information to plan for offshore renewable energy development.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Describe the interaction between human activities, particularly harvest of marine resources, and ecosystem function.
Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Official Citation:

Menza, C., J. Leirness, T. White, A. Winship, B. Kinlan, L. Kracker, J. E. Zamon, L. Ballance, E. Becker, K. Forney, J. Barlow, J. Adams, D. Pereksta, S. Pearson, J. Pierce, S. Jeffries, J. Calambokidis, A. Douglas, M. B. Hanson, S. Benson, and L. Antrim. 2016. Predictive Mapping of Seabirds, Pinnipeds and Cetaceans off the Pacific Coast of Washington. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 210. Silver Spring, MD. 96 pp.