The Use of Geographic Information Systems as a Forensic Tool to Investigate Sources of Marine Mammal Entanglement in Fisheries*

Authors

  • Leslie G. Burdett M.S.,

    1. Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 219 Fort Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29412.
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  • Jeffrey D. Adams M.S.,

    1. Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 219 Fort Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29412.
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  • Wayne E. McFee M.S.

    1. Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 219 Fort Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29412.
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  • *

    This paper is a compilation of work that has been reported in a GIS newsletter and presented at the conferences and professional meetings

    Sources of Mortality in Commercial Fisheries Predicted with GISESRI ArcNews Fall 2003
    Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists  Fall MeetingOctober 2004
     Oral Presentation: Using Geographic Information  Systems (GIS) as a Forensic Tool to Predict Sources  of Human-Induced Marine Mammal Mortality Events
    Southeast and Mid-Atlantic  Marine Mammal SymposiumMarch 2004
     Poster Presentation: Working Backwards: Using Rope  Impressions of Marine Mammals to Create GIS Maps  That May Identify Potential Sources of Entanglement
    15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of  Marine MammalsDecember 2003
     Poster Presentation: Using Geographic Information  Systems (GIS)  as a Forensic Tool to Predict Sources of  Marine Mammal  Entanglement in Commercial Fisheries

    .

Additional information and reprint requests:
Leslie Burdett, M.S.
Biologist
219 Fort Johnson Rd
Charleston, SC 29412
E-mail: leslie.burdett@noaa.gov

Abstract

Abstract:  Commercial fisheries represent a significant anthropogenic threat to marine mammal survival. Causes of marine mammal mortality are commonly determined by detailed necropsies of stranded carcasses. Gross evidence of entanglement in a fishery might include gear attached to the body, internal indications of asphyxiation and trauma, or gear markings on the epidermis. As gear is often fishery-specific, wound patterns on the epidermis that are created by entanglements in fishing gear may serve to identify possible sources of mortality. For this study, tools within the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) ArcMap GIS software were used to create maps that outline impressions that fishing gear can leave on the epidermis of entangled marine mammals. These maps can subsequently be used to identify possible sources of fishery entanglement for the many marine mammals that wash ashore without gear attached to their carcass. Entanglement wound patterns can be visually compared with fishing gear characteristics; however, differences in scale and image quality can introduce subjectivity that might hinder source identification. The technique described herein provides an objective way to outline the unique characteristics of fishing gear and their associated wounds on entangled marine mammals. Additionally, spatial relationships are preserved as the maps are adjusted to varying scales. Whereas the initial protocol required time-consuming digitization of the outline and visual determination of the pattern interface, this new, semiautomated technique saves analyst effort and minimizes error.

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