A method for prioritizing research on common bottlenose dolphin stocks through evaluating threats and data availability : development and application to bay, sound and estuary stocks in Texas
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A method for prioritizing research on common bottlenose dolphin stocks through evaluating threats and data availability : development and application to bay, sound and estuary stocks in Texas

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    The common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, is a well-known marine mammal widespread throughout the bays, sounds and estuaries (BSEs) of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Thirty-one stocks of common bottlenose dolphins have been delimited in the BSE environments from the Florida Keys to the Texas-Mexico border. For many of the stocks, up-to-date information necessary for accurate assessment of their status is limited. While it would be ideal to have well characterized biological data for all T. truncatus stocks, this is not a realistic short or medium-term goal given the limited resources that are available for the conservation and management of a single species. Thus, a method to objectively prioritize stocks relative to one other for basic stock assessment research would aid the decision making process and allow resources to be directed where they would be the most effective for meeting research and management objectives. Here we develop a Threat Assessment Priority Scoring System, incorporating an assessment of the number and severity of threats impacting a given stock and an evaluation of the quality of data available for performing a stock assessment. To generate the priority scores, a thorough literature search is first conducted to develop a summary of the presence, severity and impact of 19 potential stressors for each stock area, and a Cumulative Threats Score (CTS) is calculated from this information. Next, the quality of available stock assessment data for a stock (i.e., the quality of the available information on stock structure, abundance and mortality) obtained primarily from the most recent Stock Assessment Report (SAR) is evaluated and used to generate a Data Assessment Score (DAS). Together, the CTS and DAS are used to determine whether a particular stock should be given low, medium or high priority for research. In this process, it is not simply the level of threat(s) faced nor the amount (or lack of) of data available for a stock that leads to the prioritization of one stock over another. Rather, it is the interplay of these two categories that is important; so in theory, stocks with limited amounts of data available that face a high level of threats should be prioritized above stocks with more data availability and moderate to low levels of threats. It is hoped this assessment method could be extended to coastal and pelagic cetacean stocks in the Gulf and Northwest Atlantic. This document describes the threat assessment process and explains the rationale behind each of the scores used to produce a final assessment of the priority of a given stock. It then provides a complete summary of the literature reviews performed for each of the seven BSE stocks in Texas and the final scoring for each of these stocks. All seven BSE stocks in Texas scored a high priority. This is not unexpected because none have recent abundance estimates or information on population structure. Galveston Bay, Laguna Madre and Corpus Christ had the highest cumulative threats scores while Sabine Lake had the lowest, though this low score is partially attributed to a lack of comprehensive information on the threats in this area. It is expected that future documents will provide the literature review summaries and final CTS and DAS for the remaining BSE stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. doi:10.7289/V5F769H8 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7289/V5F769H8)
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    by Nicole M. Phillips and Patricia E. Rosel.

    "December 2014."

    doi:10.7289/V5F769H8 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7289/V5F769H8)

    System requirements: Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Includes bibliographical references (pages 130-146).

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