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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Anthropogenic Threats to Wild Cetacean Welfare and a Tool to Inform Policy in This Area

Nicol, Christine; Bejder, Lars; Green, Laura; Johnson, Craig; Keeling, Linda; Noren, Dawn; Van der Hoop, Julie; Simmonds, Mark

Abstract

Human activities and anthropogenic environmental changes are having a profound effect on biodiversity and the sustainability and health of many populations and species of wild mammals. There has been less attention devoted to the impact of human activities on the welfare of individual wild mammals, although ethical reasoning suggests that the welfare of an individual is important regardless of species abundance or population health. There is growing interest in developing methodologies and frameworks that could be used to obtain an overview of anthropogenic threats to animal welfare. This paper shows the steps taken to develop a functional welfare assessment tool for wild cetaceans (WATWC) via an iterative process involving input from a wide range of experts and stakeholders. Animal welfare is a multidimensional concept, and the WATWC presented made use of the Five Domains model of animal welfare to ensure that all areas of potential welfare impact were considered. A pilot version of the tool was tested and then refined to improve functionality. We demonstrated that the refined version of the WATWC was useful to assess real-world impacts of human activity on Southern Resident killer whales. There was close within-scenario agreement between assessors as well as between-scenario differentiation of overall welfare impact. The current article discusses the challenges raised by assessing welfare in scenarios where objective data on cetacean behavioral and physiological responses are sparse and proposes that the WATWC approach has value in identifying important information gaps and in contributing to policy decisions relating to human impacts on whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Keywords

cetacean; animal welfare; anthropogenic threat; expert elicitation; Five Domains model

Published in

Frontiers in Veterinary Science
2020, volume: 7, article number: 57
Publisher: FRONTIERS MEDIA SA

Authors' information

Nicol, Christine
Royal Vet Coll
Bejder, Lars
Univ Hawaii Manoa
Green, Laura
Univ Birmingham
Johnson, Craig
Massey Univ
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health
Noren, Dawn
NOAA
Van der Hoop, Julie
Aaarhus Univ
Simmonds, Mark
Univ Bristol

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Wildlife Management

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00057

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/105298