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Keywords:

  • harbor porpoise;
  • Phocoena phocoena;
  • small cetacean;
  • conservation;
  • kernel density estimation;
  • key habitat;
  • Marine Protected Area

Abstract

The population status of harbor porpoises has been of concern for several years, and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been suggested as a method to protect the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena, Linneaus 1758) and other small cetaceans. In order to designate MPAs, high-density areas for the species must be identified. Spatial distribution of small cetaceans is usually assessed from ship or aerial surveys. As a potentially more accurate alternative, this study examined the movements and area preferences of 64 harbor porpoises, satellite tagged between 1997 and 2007, in order to determine the distribution in the North Sea, the western Baltic, and the waters in between. Results show that harbor porpoises are not evenly distributed, but congregate in nine high-density areas within the study area. Several of these areas are subject to significant seasonal variation. The study found no differences in the home range size of males and females, but immature harbor porpoises have larger home ranges than mature porpoises. The use of satellite telemetry for identifying areas of high harbor porpoise density can be of key importance when designating MPAs.