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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
JournalFrontiers In Veterinary Science
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the skilled and enthusiastic input of Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International in devising and helping with the workshops and in proposing the use of the Five Domains model as a potential assessment framework. We also acknowledge the skill and time of the volunteer assessors who tested the pilot and refined versions of the WATWC, namely, Sandra Baker, Gina Caplen, Isabelle Dennis (Pettersson), Orla Doherty, Joanne Edgar, Antonio Jes?s Fern?ndez Rodr?guez, Julie Fiedler, Raf Freire, Silvia Gimeno, Bidda Jones, Kate Littin, Xavier Manteca, Kate Norman, Jake Rendle-Worthington, Simone Segura, Elizabeth Slooten, Karen Stockin, Anna Trevarthen (Davies), Vicky Tzioumis, and Sarah Wolfensohn. For LB, this paper represents HIMB and SOEST contribution numbers 1783 and 10889, respectively. The scientific results and conclusions, as well as any views or opinions expressed herein, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the Department of Commerce. Funding. Funding was provided by a grant from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to Humane Society International. LB was funded by IWC to attend the Kruger workshop.

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by a grant from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to Humane Society International. LB was funded by IWC to attend the Kruger workshop.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Nicol, Bejder, Green, Johnson, Keeling, Noren, Van der Hoop and Simmonds.

Keywords

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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