ESR 28:147-162 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00686

Assessing the design and power of capture-recapture studies to estimate demographic parameters for the Endangered Oceania humpback whale population

E. L. Carroll1,*, L. Brooks2, C. S. Baker3,4, D. Burns2,5, C. Garrigue6,7, N. Hauser8, J. A. Jackson9, M. M. Poole10, R. M. Fewster11

1School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Fife, St Andrews KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
2Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157 Lismore, New South Wales, 2480 Australia
3School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
4Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
5Blue Planet Marine, Amberley Business Centre, 1060 Hay St, West Perth, Western Australia 6005, Australia
6Opération Cétacés, BP 12827, 98802 Nouméa, New Caledonia
7IRD UMR9220 ENTROPIE, Université de Perpignan, 52 avenue Paul Alduy, 66860 Perpignan Cedex, France
8Cook Islands Whale Research, PO Box 3069, Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
9British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, High Cross, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB3 0ET, UK
10Marine Mammal Research Program, BP 698, Maharepa, Moorea, French Polynesia
11Department of Statistics, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Capture-recapture studies offer a powerful tool to assess abundance, survival and population rate of change (λ). A previous capture-recapture study, based on DNA profiles, estimated that the IUCN-listed Endangered Oceania population of humpback whales had a superpopulation size of 4329 whales (95% confidence limits, CL: 3345, 5315) and λ = 1.03 (95% CL: 0.90-1.18) for the period 1999-2005. This low estimate of λ contrasts with the high estimated λ for the neighbouring east Australia population (1.11; 95% CL: 1.105-1.113). A future assessment of Oceania humpbacks through capture-recapture methodology has been proposed to meet 3 objectives: (1) estimate population size with a coefficient of variation of <20%, and detect if λ is significantly different from (2) 1.00 or (3) λ of east Australia. The proposed survey design involves using DNA profiles to identify whales on principal breeding grounds within Oceania in proportion to the abundance of whales on these grounds over the 10 to 12 wk wintering period, to minimise capture heterogeneity between individuals and to maximise capture probabilities. Simulations of the idealised survey design incorporating data from the previous surveys (1999-2005) with 3 new survey years were conducted under a range of scenarios for the ‘true’ demographic status of the population. Simulations of the entire Oceania region showed that the proposed design will give sufficient power to meet objectives (1) under all scenarios, (2) if the true λ ≥ 1.05 and (3) if the true λ ≤ 1.05. Region-specific simulations suggested there was scope to test for differences in recovery between principal breeding sites within Oceania.


KEY WORDS: Capture–recapture · DNA profile · Heterogeneity · Megaptera novaeangliae


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Cite this article as: Carroll EL, Brooks L, Baker CS, Burns D and others (2015) Assessing the design and power of capture-recapture studies to estimate demographic parameters for the Endangered Oceania humpback whale population. Endang Species Res 28:147-162. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00686

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