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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 527:13-29 (2015)  -  DOI:

Acoustic surveys of euphausiids and models of baleen whale distribution in the Barents Sea

P. H. Ressler1,2,*, P. Dalpadado2, G. J. Macaulay2, N. Handegard2, M. Skern-Mauritzen2

1Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
2Institute of Marine Research (IMR), PO Box 1870 Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As in many high-latitude ecosystems, euphausiids (order Euphausiacea, ‘krill’) play a key role in the Barents Sea by channeling energy from primary producers to fish and other zooplankton predators. We used multifrequency acoustic data from several recent multidisciplinary surveys to describe the spatial distribution of backscatter likely to be from euphausiids. Spatial patterns in euphausiid backscatter observed in 2010, 2011, and 2012 were correlated with vertically integrated euphausiid biomass collected with plankton nets, and were also broadly consistent with the distribution of euphausiids expected from the literature. We used the high-resolution and broad-spatial coverage of our euphausiid backscatter data to update multiple regression models of baleen (fin, humpback, and minke) whale distribution to test the hypothesis that these animals aggregated where euphausiids were abundant. After controlling for physical environmental factors and the densities of capelin and several other potential prey taxa, we found that fin whale densities were positively and linearly associated with euphausiid backscatter, and higher than average densities of humpback whales were found in areas with high euphausiid backscatter. No association was found between minke whales and euphausiids. Densities of all 3 whale species were also positively associated with capelin. For fin and humpback whales, the effects of capelin and euphausiids on whale densities appeared to be principally separate and additive, although there was some evidence for a stronger effect of euphausiids at low capelin densities. In terms of their preference for euphausiids and capelin, these whale species appeared to be flexible, opportunistic predators.

KEY WORDS: Euphausiids · Capelin · Thysanoessa · Minke whale · Fin whale · Humpback whale · Acoustics · Barents Sea

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Cite this article as: Ressler PH, Dalpadado P, Macaulay GJ, Handegard N, Skern-Mauritzen M (2015) Acoustic surveys of euphausiids and models of baleen whale distribution in the Barents Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 527:13-29.

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