Modeling Whale Entanglement

WhaleUnder contract to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), IEc has developed and refined an integrated model to evaluate the potential for endangered Atlantic whales to become entangled in commercial fishing gear. Such entanglements are one of several mortality risk contributors for key species such as right, humpback, and fin whales. In support of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP), the model merges data on the location of commercial fishing activity; gear quantities; and whale distribution.

Whale model screenshotA key component of the model is an extensive dataset on sightings of large whales in ALWTRP waters. IEc worked with the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC) to compile shipboard and aerial survey data showing the seasonal distribution of relevant whale species. In addition, the model incorporates a wealth of fishing effort data from federal and state reporting programs, one-time surveys, and best professional judgment supplied by state fisheries managers. Blending all these data in a GIS environment allows the model user to execute temporally and spatially explicit queries to assess the co-occurrence of whales and fishing gear.

Over the last decade, NMFS has used the model to craft rules for gear modifications and closures of high-risk waters. IEc is currently upgrading the model to operate on a new software platform, improving processing time, flexibility, and risk characterization metrics.

Client National Marine Fisheries Service