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Keywords:

  • abundance;
  • assessment;
  • cetacean;
  • Gulf of Mexico;
  • line-transect;
  • ship survey

Abstract

The Gulf of Mexico is a subtropical marginal sea of the western North Atlantic Ocean with a diverse cetacean community. Ship-based, line-transect abundance surveys were conducted in oceanic waters (>200 m deep) of the northern Gulf within U. S. waters (380,432 km2) during spring from 1996 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2001. Data from these five surveys were pooled and minimum abundance estimates were based on 12,162 km of effort and 512 sightings of at least 19 species. The most commonly sighted species (number of groups) were pantropical spotted dolphin, Stenella attenuata (164); sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus (67); dwarf/pygmy sperm whale, Kogia simalbreviceps (58); Risso's dolphin, Grampus griseus (38); and bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus (24). The most abundant species (number of individuals; coefficient of variation) were S. attenuata (91,321; 0.16); Clymene dolphin, S. clymene (17,355; 0.65); spinner dolphin, S. longirostris (11,971; 0.71); and striped dolphin, S. coeruleoalba (6,505; 0.43). The only large whales sighted were P. macrocephalus (1,349; 0.23) and Bryde's whale, Balaenopteraedeni (40; 0.61). Abundances for other species or genera ranged from 95 to 2,388 animals. Cetaceans were sighted throughout the oceanic northern Gulf and, whereas many species were widely distributed, some had more regional distributions.