Forecasting the consequences of climate-driven shifts in human behaviour on cetaceans

TitleForecasting the consequences of climate-driven shifts in human behaviour on cetaceans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsAlter, S. E., Simmonds M. P., and Brandon J. R.
JournalMarine Policy
ISBN Number0308-597X
EndNote Rec Number1236
KeywordsArctic, arctic marine mammals, cetaceans, climate change, conservation, dolphins, impacts, iwc, ocean, porpoises, sea-level rise, sensitivity, sound, Underwater noise, whales

While climate change is expected to affect cetaceans primarily via loss of habitat and changes in prey availability, additional consequences may result from climate-driven shifts in human behaviours and economic activities. For example, increases in shipping, oil and gas exploration and fishing due to the loss of Arctic sea ice are highly likely to exacerbate acoustic disturbance, ship strikes, by catch and prey depletion for Arctic cetaceans. In the tropics, climate change may result in increased hunting pressure on near-shore dolphins and whales off Asia, Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere as the availability of other marine resources diminishes. This study explores the range of potential consequences to cetaceans worldwide from predicted climate-driven shifts in human behaviour, and evaluates the risks to particular species given their geographic ranges and habitat preferences. While concern about impacts of climate change on cetaceans has largely focused on polar species, the analysis presented here suggests tropical coastal and riverine cetaceans such as the lrawaddy dolphin, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, and finless porpoise are particularly vulnerable to those aspects of climate change that are mediated by changes in human behaviour. Policy recommendations include the following: (1) information about cetacean populations should be incorporated into national, regional and international climate adaptation decisions wherever possible (for example, via GEF-sponsored adaptation initiatives); and (2) human-mediated impacts of climate change should be included in cetacean conservation and management plans, such as the management procedures of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), where possible. Because human responses to climate change are likely to evolve rapidly over the coming years and decades, it is important that local, regional and international cetacean conservation and management plans include regular reviews to allow them to adapt to new information. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.