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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 542:251-263 (2016)  -  DOI:

Meta-analyses of whale-watching impact studies: comparisons of cetacean responses to disturbance

V. Senigaglia1,*, F. Christiansen2,3, L. Bejder3, D. Gendron4, D. Lundquist5, D. P. Noren6, A. Schaffar7, J. C. Smith8, R. Williams9, E. Martinez10, K. Stockin10, D. Lusseau1

1Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
2Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280, Australia
3Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch 6150, Western Australia
4Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Instituto Politecnico Nacional A.P. 592, La Paz, Baja California Sur CP 23000, Mexico
5Department of Anatomy, Lindo Ferguson Building, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
6Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Blvd. East, Seattle, WA 98112, USA
7Opération Cétacés, BP 12827, 98802 Nouméa, New Caledonia
8Naked Whale Research, PO Box 78, Crescent Mills, CA 95934, USA
9Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY168LB, UK
10Coastal-Marine Research Group, Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 102904, Auckland 0745, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Whale-watching activities can induce behavioral changes that may negatively affect cetacean populations. However, these changes may vary depending on species, populations and environmental features. It is important to determine inter-specific variation in cetacean responses to stressors in order to identify the best metrics for evaluation of consequences of anthropogenic disturbance. We used meta-analyses to assess the consistency of cetacean responses to whale-watching vessels across a pool of suitable studies covering a variety of species and sites. We analyzed several metrics to capture cetacean heterogeneous responses and to explore their reliability across species. We found disruptions of activity budget and of path directionality as the most consistent responses towards whale-watching vessels. In a similar manner across species, animals were more likely to travel and less likely to rest and forage in the presence of vessels. Cetaceans also showed a tendency to increase path sinuosity (deviation index) and decrease path linearity (directness index) during boat interactions. We also explored the influence of socio-ecological factors on behavioral response but found no consistent results among studies. Further population-specific studies should address the potential long-term consequences of these behavioral responses to inform management of the whale-watching industry.

KEY WORDS: Animal behavior · Disturbance response · Ecotourism · Activity budget · Random effect models · Odontocetes · Mysticetes

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Cite this article as: Senigaglia V, Christiansen F, Bejder L, Gendron D and others (2016) Meta-analyses of whale-watching impact studies: comparisons of cetacean responses to disturbance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 542:251-263.

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