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ESR 54:105-122 (2024)  -  DOI:

Feeding ecology of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena stranded on the Galician coast (NW Spain) between 1990 and 2018

Alberto Hernandez-Gonzalez1,2,3,*, Camilo Saavedra1, Fiona L. Read3,4, Alfredo López5,6, Anabela Gouveia7, Pablo Covelo5, Alexandre Alonso-Fernández3, Francisco Velasco8, M. Begoña Santos1, Graham J. Pierce3,4,6

1Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO-CSIC), Centro Oceanográfico de Vigo, 36390 Vigo, Spain
2Universidade de Vigo, Campus Do Mar, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, 36310 Vigo, Spain
3Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (IIM-CSIC), 36208 Vigo, Spain
4School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Zoology Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
5Coordinadora para o Estudio dos Mamíferos Mariños (CEMMA), 36380 Gondomar, Spain
6Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM), Universidade de Aveiro, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
7Universidade do Algarve, Campus da Penha, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
8Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO-CSIC), Centro Oceanográfico de Santander, 39004 Santander, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Diet studies on the endangered and genetically distinct Iberian population of the southern harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena are scarce. The present study provides updated information on the feeding ecology of this cetacean along the Galician coast (NW Spain) over the last 3 decades (1990-2018). The stomach contents of 72 stranded harbour porpoises were analysed to determine diet composition, to study which factors affect dietary variability and to estimate overlap between harbour porpoise diet and the target species of the fisheries in the study area, one of the most important fishing regions in Europe. Results showed that harbour porpoises are mainly piscivorous. We identified 33 prey taxa, but only 4 were important in the diet: fish of the genus Trisopterus, blue whiting Micromesistius poutassou, Atlantic horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus and European hake Merluccius merluccius. Interannual and ontogenetic variability in the diet were statistically significant, although differences in diet between sexes or between seasons were not detected. The diet of harbour porpoises from the Galician coast shows a partial overlap with fisheries catches in the area in terms of commercial fish species (≈61%) and size classes (≈45%), confirming the potential vulnerability of the Iberian population to interactions with fishing activities (i.e. bycatch in fishing gear and/or reduced prey availability).

KEY WORDS: Diet analysis · Endangered cetacean species · Marine top predator · Western Iberian Peninsula

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Cite this article as: Hernandez-Gonzalez A, Saavedra C, Read FL, López A and others (2024) Feeding ecology of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena stranded on the Galician coast (NW Spain) between 1990 and 2018. Endang Species Res 54:105-122.

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