May 20, 2024

Cetacean and Sea Turtle Observations in the Remote Mid-Atlantic (NW) Ocean


Rachel Wachtendonk, Mari A. Smultea, and Kolby Pedrie


Document: Article

Abstract: Due to its remoteness, little is known about the occurrence and abundance of cetaceans and sea turtles in the pelagic mid-Atlantic Ocean. Data on cetacean and sea turtle occurrence and distribution were collected by dedicated biological observers to address U.S. monitoring and mitigation requirements associated with a vessel-based academic geophysical survey in international waters in the northwestern and mid-Atlantic Ocean from 14 June through 16 July 2018. A total of 6,949 km (503 h) of visual observations occurred while surveying north from Bermuda and ending in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. A total of 928 cetaceans representing at least 14 species and 15 sea turtles representing three species were observed. The most frequently observed cetacean species was the Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) (340 individuals; 37%) followed by the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) (286 individuals; 31%) and pilot whales (Globicephala spp.) (95 individuals; 10%). These sighting data also included an extralimital sighting of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) calf at 43.44° N latitude and 36.85° W longitude, and extralimital sightings of Atlantic white-sided dolphins below 38° N latitude. Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) were seen most frequently (6 individuals). This study addresses a data gap in documented occurrence and lack of occurrence of cetaceans and sea turtles over a large pelagic area in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean during summer.

Key Words: cetaceans, sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus acutus, geophysical, Bermuda, pelagic

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.49.6.2023.495

Page Numbers: 495-507

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