Identification of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) for cetaceans
The Irish Whale and Dolphin group are working towards identifying critical habitats for cetaceans through research and citizen science which will be the first step towards good management of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) for cetaceans.
The IWDG datasets, including casual and ship survey data, were combined with other data including CODA, SCANS II and ObSERVE and NPWS surveys and presented as kernel density estimators, which allow visual estimation of dense features or event concentrations over a study area. Heatmaps are used to easily identify clusters where there is a high concentration of activity. Over 27,000 cetacean sightings since 2005 are incorporated into these maps. These maps are biased towards where most effort in collecting sightings were made and over-emphasize coastal areas. Offshore sightings are fewer as they are harder to obtain. Concentrations offshore do not show up as high concentrations, relative to inshore high density areas.
These maps are presented seasonally, to inform time-area management actions, and when combined with maps of pressures (fishing, marine energy, shipping lanes) aid, in identifying areas where cetaceans occur and are under human pressures, thus justifying MCZ designation and management.