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Keywords:

  • evasion;
  • behavior;
  • learning;
  • spotted dolphin;
  • Stenella attenuata;
  • purse-seine fishery;
  • eastern Pacific Ocean

Abstract

Spotted dolphins in the eastern Pacific Ocean associate with yellowfin tuna. During the chase and encirclement phases of purse-seining for tunas, dolphin attempt to evade encirclement with the purse-seine net. We used data on evasive behavior (1982–2001) and numbers of purse-seine sets (1959–2001) to study the relationship between evasion and fishing effort. Results show that in nearshore areas first exploited by the fishery in the early 1960s, dolphins exhibited high evasion, but with a limited correlation between evasion and cumulative effort. In areas farther offshore next exploited in the mid-to late-1960s, dolphins showed high evasion and a significant correlation between evasion and cumulative effort. Dolphins in far-western and southern areas, first exploited in the late 1960s to early 1970s, exhibited low evasion, with little relationship to cumulative effort. We hypothesize that this spatial pattern is the result of two types of pressure from fishing: early effort in nearshore areas with a high risk of mortality that generated a lasting evasive response, followed by a longer period of even greater effort but with lower risk of mortality that generated evasion by longer-term learning.