Whales in a highly urbanized estuary: evaluating risk of ship strike to humpback whales in San Francisco Bay by Rebekah Lane

Rebekah Lane

SFSU | Buckingham/McDowell/Oberndorf/Peoples

Rebekah Lane studies the risk of ship strike to humpback whales in San Francisco Bay. Since 2016, humpbacks have been observed more frequently east of Point Bonita and even east of the Golden Gate Bridge. With this shift in habitat, humpback whales now spend more time in a highly urbanized area – which, in turn, increases the risk of anthropogenic impacts to the species. For Rebekah’s project, she will be using whale sightings data from The Marine Mammal Center and open-source vessel data to model the risk of ship strike to these whale populations. She plans to use the results of this research to help inform and prioritize management and mitigation strategies in the Bay Area.

ABSTRACT

In recent years, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have been seen more regularly in San Francisco Bay. Considering the urbanized nature of this estuary, the potential for anthropogenic impacts to marine populations is high as vesseltraffic and habitat overlap in space and time. For this research, I will use opportunistic sightings data for humpback whales from the Marine Mammal Center and vessel data to evaluate risk of ship strike to humpback whales in San Francisco Bay. Vessel data will be obtained from Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) on vessels as well as a Marine Monitor positioned at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. To assess risk of ship strike, we will 1) determine the degree of spatiotemporal overlap between vessels and whales in San Francisco Bay and adjacent waters, and 2) create an assessment that can be used to inform management to mitigate the risk of ship strike to humpback whales in SF Bay and adjacent waters. Determining the level of risk is important in providing justification for management actions.

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