Minke whale entanglement in static fishing gear: identifying consistent areas of high risk in Western Scotland

Jessica Rayner, Clare b. Embling, Conor Ryan, Lauren Hartny-Mills

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Entanglement in static fishing gear is the largest cause of non-natural mortality for minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in Scottish waters. To mitigate whale entanglement, one priority is to identify areas where the risk of entanglement is consistently high. Sightings data for minke whales and creel fleets were collected by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, during vessel line transect surveys conducted between 2008 and 2014. Habitat modelling was used to relate survey, environmental, and temporal variables to the co-occurrence of minke whales and creels in coastal waters of western Scotland. This revealed that minke whale occurrence was related to depth, peaking around 70 m. Using predictive habitat modelling, the overlap between minke whale habitat and the creel fishery was measured as risk of entanglement. A method was developed to quantify the consistency of risk over the seven-year time period. This allowed for the identification of areas where there had been a consistently low, medium, or high risk of entanglement from 2008 to 2014. The three areas with a consistent high risk of entanglement were identified: Inner Sound and Sound of Raasay, east of North and South Uist, and north of The Small Isles. The method presented here could be used to guide management to areas where mitigation efforts will be the most consistently effective over time.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal Of The Marine Biological Association Of The United Kingdom
Early online date26 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2024


  • Bycatch
  • Conservation
  • Entanglement
  • Fisheries
  • Habitat modelling
  • Managment
  • Risk
  • Scotland
  • Static gear
  • Whale


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