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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 378:211-225 (2009)  -  DOI:

Regional-scale mean copepod concentration indicates relative abundance of North Atlantic right whales

Daniel E. Pendleton1,2,3,*, Andrew J. Pershing2,3, Moira W. Brown4,7, Charles A. Mayo4, Robert D. Kenney5, Nicholas R. Record2,3, Timothy V. N. Cole6

1Department of Natural Resources, Fernow Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
2School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA
3Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial St., Portland, Maine 04101, USA
4Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, 5 Holway St., Provincetown, Massachusetts 02657, USA
5Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
6National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
7Present address: New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts 02110, USA

ABSTRACT: Management plans to reduce human-caused deaths of North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis depend, in part, on knowing when and where right whales are likely to be found. Local environmental conditions that influence movements of feeding right whales, such as ultra-dense copepod patches, are unpredictable and ephemeral. We examined the utility of using the regional-scale mean copepod concentration as an indicator of the abundance of right whales in 2 critical habitats off the northeastern coast of the United States: Cape Cod Bay and Great South Channel. Right whales are usually found in Cape Cod Bay during the late winter and early spring, and in the Great South Channel during the late spring and early summer. We found a significant positive relationship between mean concentration of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus in the western Gulf of Maine and the frequency of right whale sightings in the Great South Channel. In Cape Cod Bay we found a significant positive relationship between the mean concentration of other copepods (largely Pseudocalanus spp. and Centropages spp.) and the frequency of right whale sightings. This information could be used to further our understanding of the environmental factors that drive seasonal movement and aggregation of right whales in the Gulf of Maine, and it offers a tool to resource managers and modelers who seek to predict the movements of right whales based upon the concentration of copepods.

KEY WORDS: Eubalaena glacialis · Right whale · Calanus finmarchicus · Prey density · Cape Cod Bay · Great South Channel · Pseudocalanus · Centropages

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Cite this article as: Pendleton DE, Pershing AJ, Brown MW, Mayo CA, Kenney RD, Record NR, Cole TVN (2009) Regional-scale mean copepod concentration indicates relative abundance of North Atlantic right whales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 378:211-225.

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