Author(s): MEGAN C FERGUSON, JAY BARLOW, STEPHEN B REILLY, TIM GERRODETTE
Temporally dynamic environmental variables and fixed geographic variables were used to construct generalised additive models to predict Cuvier’s (Ziphius cavirostris) and Mesoplodon beaked whale encounter rates (number of groups per unit survey effort) and group sizes in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The beaked whale sightings and environmental data were collected simultaneously during the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s cetacean line-transect surveys conducted during the summers and autumns of 1986-90 and 1993. Predictions from the encounter rate and group size models were combined with previously published estimates of line-transect sighting parameters to describe patterns in beaked whale population density (number of individuals per unit area) throughout the study area. Results provide evidence that the previously proposed definition of beaked whale habitat may be too narrow and that beaked whales may be found from the continental slope to the abyssal plain, in waters ranging from well-mixed to highly stratified. Areas with the highest predicted population densities were the Gulf of California, the equatorial cold tongue and coastal waters, including the west coast of the Baja Peninsula and the Costa Rica Dome. Offshore waters in the northern and southern subtropical gyres had the lowest predicted Mesoplodon densities, but density predictions were high for Cuvier’s beaked whales in the waters southeast of the Hawaiian Islands. For both encounter rate and group size models, there was no geographic pattern evident in the residuals as measured by the ratio of pooled predicted to pooled observed values within geographic strata.