Temporal Variability of Cetaceans near Halifax, Nova Scotia

Peter Simard, Jennifer L. Lawlor, Shannon Gowans

Abstract


Annual and seasonal trends in sightings of coastal cetaceans near Halifax, Nova Scotia, were studied using observations from whale watching and dedicated research vessels from late spring to early fall of 1996 to 2005. Four species of cetaceans routinely used the area during the summer: White-beaked and Atlantic White-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris and L. acutus), Harbour Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), and Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). The dolphin species were temporally separated, with White-beaked Dolphins being common earlier in the summer than White-sided Dolphins. White-sided Dolphins were unusually abundant in 1997, and were found in larger groups (mean = 46.5 ± 46.19 sd) than Whitebeaked Dolphins (mean = 9.1 ± 5.19 SD). The area also appears to be an important habitat for dolphin calves and juveniles of both species. Fin Whales (B. physalus) were commonly observed in relatively large groups in 1997, but were uncommon or absent in other years. Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Blue Whales (B. musculus) and North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis) were uncommon in the area, although Humpback Whales were sighted frequently in 1997. Increased numbers of White-sided Dolphins, Fin and Humpback whales in 1997 may be explained by increased prey abundance and decreased sea-surface temperatures.

Keywords


White-beaked Dolphin; Lagenorhynchus albirostris; Atlantic White-sided Dolphin; Lagenorhynchus acutus; Harbour Porpoise; Phocoena phocoena; Minke Whale; Balaenoptera acutorostrata; Fin Whale; Balaenoptera physalus; Humpback Whale; Megaptera novaeangliae

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22621/cfn.v120i1.252



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