Abundance of cetaceans in the oceanic northern Gulf of Mexico from 2003 and 2004 ship surveys
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Abundance of cetaceans in the oceanic northern Gulf of Mexico from 2003 and 2004 ship surveys

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    The Gulf of Mexico (GMx) is a subtropical marginal sea of the western North Atlantic Ocean with a diverse cetacean community. Ship-based, line-transect abundance surveys were conducted in oceanic waters (>200 m deep) of the northern GMx within U.S. waters (380,432 km²) during summer 2003 and spring 2004. Data from these surveys were pooled and minimum abundance estimates were based on 10,933 km of effort and 433 sightings of at least 17 species. The most commonly sighted species (number of groups) were pantropical spotted dolphin, Stenella attenuata (115); sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus (85); dwarf/pygmy sperm whale, Kogia sima/breviceps (27); Risso's dolphin, Grampus griseus (26); and bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus (26). The most abundant species (number of individuals; coefficient of variation) were S. attenuata (34,067; 0.18); Clymene dolphin, S. clymene (6,575; 0.36); T. truncatus (3,708; 0.42); and striped dolphin, S. coeruleoalba (3,325; 0.48). The only large whales sighted were P. macrocephalus (1,665; 0.20) and Bryde's whale, Balaenoptera edeni (15; 1.98). Abundances for other species or genera ranged from 57 to 2,283 animals. Cetaceans were sighted throughout the oceanic northern GMx, and whereas many species were widely distributed, some had more regional distributions. Compared to abundance estimates for this area based on 1996-2001 surveys, the estimate for S. attenuata was significantly smaller (P < 0.05) and that for the spinner dolphin, S. longirostris, appeared much smaller. Also, P. macrocephalus estimates were based on less negatively biased estimates of group-size using 90-minute counts during 2003 and 2004. [doi:10.7289/V5/RD-PRBD-2016-03 (http://doi.org/10.7289/V5/RD-PRBD-2016-03)]
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