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Factors Affecting Haul-Out Behavior of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Tidewater Glacier Inlets in Alaska: Can Tourism Vessels and Seals Coexist?

Blundell GM, Pendleton GW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Cruise ships had the strongest negative effect; however, most vessel types negatively affected haul-out probability.End of haulouts was associated with increasing cloud cover, low ice availability, and vessel presence; large-sized tourism vessels or all-vessel-types combined were significant predictors of ending a haul-out bout.Potential disturbances of harbor seals could be reduced, enabling longer resting times for seals and fewer interruptions for nursing pups, if vessels focused the majority of visits to glacial habitat to before or after the hours of 08:00-17:00 or, less optimally, 09:00-16:00.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Juneau, Alaska, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Large numbers of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) use habitat in tidewater glaciers in Alaska for pupping, breeding, and molting. Glacial fjords are also popular tourist destinations; however, visitation by numerous vessels can result in disturbance of seals during critical life-history phases. We explored factors affecting haul-out behavior of harbor seals at a glacial site frequented by tourism vessels. In 2008-10, we deployed VHF transmitters on 107 seals in Endicott Arm, Alaska. We remotely monitored presence and haul-out behavior of tagged seals and documented vessel presence with time-lapse cameras. We evaluated the influence of environmental and physical factors on the probability of being hauled out, duration of haul-out bouts, and as factors associated with the start and end of a haulout. Location, season, hour, and interactions of location by year, season, hour, and sex significantly influenced haul-out probability, as did ice, weather, and vessels. Seals were more likely to be hauled out with greater ice availability during the middle of the day, and less likely to be hauled out if vessels were present. Cruise ships had the strongest negative effect; however, most vessel types negatively affected haul-out probability. Haul-out duration was longest in association with starting on incoming tides, clear skies, no precipitation, occurring in the middle of the day, and ending in the late afternoon or evening. End of haulouts was associated with increasing cloud cover, low ice availability, and vessel presence; large-sized tourism vessels or all-vessel-types combined were significant predictors of ending a haul-out bout. Probability of being hauled out was highest in June, during pupping season. Potential disturbances of harbor seals could be reduced, enabling longer resting times for seals and fewer interruptions for nursing pups, if vessels focused the majority of visits to glacial habitat to before or after the hours of 08:00-17:00 or, less optimally, 09:00-16:00.

No MeSH data available.


Summary of Vessel Effects on Seal Behavior.Estimates of haul-out probability, haul-out start, and haul-out end are odds ratios, which estimate the effects of vessel presence for each size category, relative to when there were no vessels of that size present. Estimates for durations are the geometric mean duration (dur.) of haulouts when a vessel was present relative to when there were no vessels. The observed effect of longer duration of haulouts in the presence of vessels is likely spurious, as a result of the confounding effects of the presence of numerous vessels during midday, at a time when the majority of seals haul out (Fig 8). Significant effects (i.e., factors where the CI does not cross 1 or no effect) have solid symbols.
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pone.0125486.g009: Summary of Vessel Effects on Seal Behavior.Estimates of haul-out probability, haul-out start, and haul-out end are odds ratios, which estimate the effects of vessel presence for each size category, relative to when there were no vessels of that size present. Estimates for durations are the geometric mean duration (dur.) of haulouts when a vessel was present relative to when there were no vessels. The observed effect of longer duration of haulouts in the presence of vessels is likely spurious, as a result of the confounding effects of the presence of numerous vessels during midday, at a time when the majority of seals haul out (Fig 8). Significant effects (i.e., factors where the CI does not cross 1 or no effect) have solid symbols.

Mentions: The odds of a seal being hauled out were greatly reduced by the presence of a vessel (Table 4; Fig 9). Cruise ships had the strongest effect (i.e., seals had a lower probability of being hauled out when cruise ships were present), but the confidence intervals for the odds ratios for the various vessel types broadly overlapped (Table 4; Fig 9). Although the data suggest that kayak presence negatively affected haul-out probability, the effect is not significant due to imprecise estimates (small sample size) as a result of low detectability of kayaks among the icebergs when the photographs were inspected for vessel presence.


Factors Affecting Haul-Out Behavior of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Tidewater Glacier Inlets in Alaska: Can Tourism Vessels and Seals Coexist?

Blundell GM, Pendleton GW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Summary of Vessel Effects on Seal Behavior.Estimates of haul-out probability, haul-out start, and haul-out end are odds ratios, which estimate the effects of vessel presence for each size category, relative to when there were no vessels of that size present. Estimates for durations are the geometric mean duration (dur.) of haulouts when a vessel was present relative to when there were no vessels. The observed effect of longer duration of haulouts in the presence of vessels is likely spurious, as a result of the confounding effects of the presence of numerous vessels during midday, at a time when the majority of seals haul out (Fig 8). Significant effects (i.e., factors where the CI does not cross 1 or no effect) have solid symbols.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4446219&req=5

pone.0125486.g009: Summary of Vessel Effects on Seal Behavior.Estimates of haul-out probability, haul-out start, and haul-out end are odds ratios, which estimate the effects of vessel presence for each size category, relative to when there were no vessels of that size present. Estimates for durations are the geometric mean duration (dur.) of haulouts when a vessel was present relative to when there were no vessels. The observed effect of longer duration of haulouts in the presence of vessels is likely spurious, as a result of the confounding effects of the presence of numerous vessels during midday, at a time when the majority of seals haul out (Fig 8). Significant effects (i.e., factors where the CI does not cross 1 or no effect) have solid symbols.
Mentions: The odds of a seal being hauled out were greatly reduced by the presence of a vessel (Table 4; Fig 9). Cruise ships had the strongest effect (i.e., seals had a lower probability of being hauled out when cruise ships were present), but the confidence intervals for the odds ratios for the various vessel types broadly overlapped (Table 4; Fig 9). Although the data suggest that kayak presence negatively affected haul-out probability, the effect is not significant due to imprecise estimates (small sample size) as a result of low detectability of kayaks among the icebergs when the photographs were inspected for vessel presence.

Bottom Line: Cruise ships had the strongest negative effect; however, most vessel types negatively affected haul-out probability.End of haulouts was associated with increasing cloud cover, low ice availability, and vessel presence; large-sized tourism vessels or all-vessel-types combined were significant predictors of ending a haul-out bout.Potential disturbances of harbor seals could be reduced, enabling longer resting times for seals and fewer interruptions for nursing pups, if vessels focused the majority of visits to glacial habitat to before or after the hours of 08:00-17:00 or, less optimally, 09:00-16:00.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Juneau, Alaska, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Large numbers of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) use habitat in tidewater glaciers in Alaska for pupping, breeding, and molting. Glacial fjords are also popular tourist destinations; however, visitation by numerous vessels can result in disturbance of seals during critical life-history phases. We explored factors affecting haul-out behavior of harbor seals at a glacial site frequented by tourism vessels. In 2008-10, we deployed VHF transmitters on 107 seals in Endicott Arm, Alaska. We remotely monitored presence and haul-out behavior of tagged seals and documented vessel presence with time-lapse cameras. We evaluated the influence of environmental and physical factors on the probability of being hauled out, duration of haul-out bouts, and as factors associated with the start and end of a haulout. Location, season, hour, and interactions of location by year, season, hour, and sex significantly influenced haul-out probability, as did ice, weather, and vessels. Seals were more likely to be hauled out with greater ice availability during the middle of the day, and less likely to be hauled out if vessels were present. Cruise ships had the strongest negative effect; however, most vessel types negatively affected haul-out probability. Haul-out duration was longest in association with starting on incoming tides, clear skies, no precipitation, occurring in the middle of the day, and ending in the late afternoon or evening. End of haulouts was associated with increasing cloud cover, low ice availability, and vessel presence; large-sized tourism vessels or all-vessel-types combined were significant predictors of ending a haul-out bout. Probability of being hauled out was highest in June, during pupping season. Potential disturbances of harbor seals could be reduced, enabling longer resting times for seals and fewer interruptions for nursing pups, if vessels focused the majority of visits to glacial habitat to before or after the hours of 08:00-17:00 or, less optimally, 09:00-16:00.

No MeSH data available.