Spatiotemporal patterns of marine mammal distribution in coastal waters of Galicia, NW Spain

Evangelos Spyrakos, Tania C. Santos-Diniz, Gema Martinez-Iglesias, Jesus M. Torres-Palenzuela, Graham J. Pierce

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The spatial and seasonal distribution of cetaceans and possible links with environmental conditions were studied at the Galician continental shelf. Data were collected between February-August 2001 and June-September 2003 during opportunistic surveys onboard fishing boats. Seven species of cetaceans were identified from 250 sightings of 6,846 individuals. The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) was by far the most frequently sighted and the most widely distributed species. Spatiotemporal trends in cetacean distribution and abundance, and their relationships with environmental parameters (sea depth, SST and chlorophyll-a) were quantified using generalised additive models (GAMs). Results for all cetaceans were essentially the same as for common dolphins alone. Modelling results indicated that the number of common dolphin sightings per unit effort was higher further south. The number of individual common dolphins seen per sighting of this species (i.e. group size) was however higher in the north and west of the study area, higher later in the year and higher in 2001 than in 2003. In contrast, the number of common dolphin calves seen (per sighting of this species) was higher in the south. Models including environmental variables indicated larger common dolphin group sizes in deeper waters and at higher chlorophyll concentrations (i.e. in more productive areas). There was also a positive relationship between survey effort and group size, which is probably an artefact of the tendency of the survey platforms (fishing boats) to spend most time in areas of high fish abundance. Numbers of common dolphin calves per sighting were found to be higher in shallower waters. The results are consistent with common dolphins foraging mainly in deeper waters of the Galician continental shelf, while more southern inshore waters may represent a nursery area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-109
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Cetaceans sighting
  • GAMs
  • GIS
  • Galician waters
  • Generalized additive-models
  • Gulf-of-Mexico
  • Sea-surface temperature
  • Environmental-conditions
  • Phocoena-Phocoena
  • Mediterannean Sea
  • Harbor porpoises
  • Spatial analysis
  • English-channel
  • Solea-Solea


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