Long-term individual sighting history database: an effective tool to monitor satellite tag effects on cetaceans

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  • During the last 3 decades, tagging technology has been used to study different aspects of cetacean ecology. Tags implanted in animal’s blubber, muscle and surrounding tissue have produced successful results, providing information on long-term movements. However, apart from the reports of ‘divots’ (depressions) and swelling at the tag sites in re-sighted large whales, little has been published about the long-term effects of tagging. Based on sighting history databases of photo-identified blue whales, we monitored the wound site of a satellite tag on an adult female blue whale over a period of 16 yr (1995 to 2011). This report describes the swelling reaction to a broken subdermal attachment from a tag designed early in the evolution of large whale tagging. The tag attachment remained embedded for a decade (much longer than expected), and may have affected the female’s reproductive success during this period. The whale’s calving history showed a total of 3 calves; 2 were prior to, and one occurred after, the swelling period (1999 to 2007). We demonstrate the value of long-term monitoring programs in evaluating tag impacts, especially on endangered species.
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  • Keywords: Long-term effect, Monitoring, Blue whale, Satellite tag, Calving interval
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  • Gendron, D., Serrano, I. M., de la Cruz, A. U., Calambokidis, J., & Mate, B. (2015). Long-term individual sighting history database: an effective tool to monitor satellite tag effects on cetaceans. Endangered Species Research, 26(3), 235-241. doi:10.3354/esr00644
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  • 26
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  • 3
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  • The annual fieldwork was funded by the Instituto Politecnico Nacional and research was done under our annual research permits (1994 to 2000) issued by Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Pesca and (2001 to 2011) by the Dirección General de Vida Silvestre, Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales. We are grateful to all the students, volunteers and technicians from the Laboratorio de Ecologia de Cetaceos y Quelonios at CICIMAR-IPN who collaborated during the fieldwork, and Armando Hernandez Lopez for editing the figures. We thank all Mingan Islands Cetacean Research (MICS) personnel who took part in many years of fieldwork in the Loreto region. We thank Kiirsten Flynn, who was able to photographically match this whale to the video images taken during tag deployment. Her participation and that of J.C. was conducted with the support of the Office of Naval Research under grant N00014-10-1-0902. Todd Chandler and others at Cascadia Research obtained some of the photographs off California used in this study. The tagging of this whale was carried out under NOAA MMPA/ESA permit #841 and was funded by an ONR grant to Oregon State University and supplemented by donor gifts to the Oregon State University Foundation for the OSU Marine Mammal Program.



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