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Satellite tagging of Mediterranean fin whales: working towards the identification of critical habitats and the focussing of mitigation measures
Panigada, S.; Donovan, G.P.; Druon, J.-N.; Lauriano, G.; Pierantonio, N.; Pirotta, E.; Zanardelli, M.; Zerbini, A.N.; Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. (2017). Satellite tagging of Mediterranean fin whales: working towards the identification of critical habitats and the focussing of mitigation measures. NPG Scientific Reports 7(1): 12 pp. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1038/s41598-017-03560-9
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Panigada, S.
  • Donovan, G.P.
  • Druon, J.-N.
  • Lauriano, G.
  • Pierantonio, N.
  • Pirotta, E.
  • Zanardelli, M.
  • Zerbini, A.N.
  • Notarbartolo di Sciara, G.

Abstract
    Mediterranean fin whales comprise a genetically distinct population, listed as Vulnerable (VU) in the IUCN Red List. Collisions with vessels are believed to represent the main cause of human-induced mortality. The identification of critical habitats (including migration routes) incorporating satellite telemetry data is therefore crucial to develop focussed conservation efforts. Between 2012 and 2015 thirteen fin whales were equipped with satellite transmitters, 8 in the Pelagos Sanctuary (although two ceased within two days) and 5 in the Strait of Sicily, to evaluate movements and habitat use. A hierarchical switching state-space model was used to identify transiting and area-restricted search (ARS) behaviours, believed to indicate foraging activities. All whales undertook mid- to long-distance migrations, crossing some of the world’s busiest maritime routes. Areas where the animals predominantly engaged in ARS behaviour were identified in both study areas. The telemetry data were compared with results from ecosystem niche modelling, and showed that 80% of tagged whale positions was near (<7 km) the closest suitable habitat. The results contribute to the view that precautionary management should include establishment of a coordinated and dynamic basin-wide management scheme; if appropriate, this may include the establishment of protected areas by specific regional Conventions.

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