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Title: Marine Mammal Strandings
Authors: Rogan, E
Penrose, R
Gassner, I
Mackey, M J
Clayton, P
Keywords: INTERREG
Issue Date: Dec-2001
Publisher: Marine Institute
Citation: Rogan, E., Penrose, R., Gassner, I., Mackey, M.J. & Clayton, P., "Marine Mammal Strandings", Maritime Ireland/Wales INTERREG Report, Marine Institute 2001
Series/Report no.: Maritime Ireland/Wales INTERREG Report;8
Abstract: Since the 1980s, there has been growing concern about the health of marine mammal populations in coastal waters and in particular with respect to a decline in harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) numbers. A variety of possible causes have been proposed including infectious diseases, changes in food supply, pollution and entanglement in fishing gear. Recent studies linking contaminant data with disease levels in cetaceans suggest that higher contaminant levels are generally found in animals with a higher number of diseases i.e. that chronic exposure to PCBs or trace metals negatively influences the health status of some cetacean species by predisposing individuals to mortality associated with infectious disease (Jepson et al., 1999; Siebert et al., 1999). The reverse may also be true, that high levels of disease may disable the animal to the extent that coping with contaminants is not possible and toxins accumulate. The potentially serious role of infectious disease was demonstrated by the phocine distemper epidemic of 1987, which killed approximately 18,000 common seals (Phoca vitulina) in the North Sea and adjacent waters (Kennedy, 1990) and by the subsequent morbillivirus epidemic in striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) in the Mediterranean sea (Domingo et al., 1990). Rejinders (1986) and Brouwer et al. (1989) demonstrated that feeding captive common seals with fish caught in highly polluted waters had deleterious effects on their health and there was speculation that pollution may have been a factor in the severity of these epidemics (Aguilar and Raga, 1990, Aguilar and Borrell, 1994, deSwart et al., 1994). Relatively little work on the health status and contaminant loadings in cetacean and pinniped populations in the Irish Sea has been undertaken to date (e.g., Morris et al., 1989, Law et al., 1995, Berrow et al., 1998a). Given the need for such data from relatively "high-medium" polluted waters (e.g., the Irish Sea) such a data collection programme is highly desirable. For a large number of cetacean and seal species, the only way to assess their health status and contaminant loadings, bar live capture and/or killing them, is through a Strandings Programme. Such programmes involve the recording and recovering of beach cast animals. Strandings programmes allow for some definition of the distribution of different species, but are primarily used to examine health status and to determine population parameters necessary for management decisions. Such programmes are imperative, as they allow top mammalian predators to be monitored and increase our knowledge of a number of biological parameters (for example, age, reproductive status, diet), parasites and contaminant loadings. Cause of death can reflect disease status and in the absence of observer programmes, can indicate fishing associated mortalities (by-catch).
ISSN: 1393-9025
Appears in Collections:EU Collaborative Research

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