Using emerging hot spot analysis of stranding records to inform conservation management of a data-poor cetacean species

  • Emma L. BettyEmail author
  • Barbara Bollard
  • Sinéad Murphy
  • Mike Ogle
  • Hannah Hendriks
  • Mark B. Orams
  • Karen A. Stockin
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Coastal and marine biodiversity


Conservation monitoring of highly mobile species in relatively inaccessible habitats presents a considerable challenge to wildlife biologists. Effective conservation strategies require knowledge of cetacean ecology that is often challenging and expensive to obtain. Despite their caveats, stranding data represent an underused resource to study the long-term dynamics of cetacean populations. Using long-finned pilot whale (LFPW; Globicephala melas edwardii) strandings on the New Zealand coast as a case study, we present a novel approach to demonstrate how stranding data can inform conservation management of data-poor species. A total of 8571 LFPWs stranded on the New Zealand coast within a 40-year period between January 1978 and December 2017. Overall, where sex was recorded, mass stranded adults were significantly biased towards females, while a significant male bias was observed in juveniles. Strandings occurred in all months, though significant seasonal variation was evident, with 66% of stranding events reported during austral spring and summer months (October–February). Hot spot analysis (ArcGIS) identified the majority of LFPWs stranded at Golden Bay, Great Barrier Island, Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands, with emerging hot spot analysis (ArcGIS) used to identify spatiotemporal trends. While emerging hot spot analysis revealed no significant temporal trend in the annual frequency of stranding events or numbers of individuals stranded, it did reveal a significant spatiotemporal trend, with the numbers of stranded individuals declining in areas of the Far North, Coromandel, Canterbury, Otago and the Chatham Islands, and increasing in Golden Bay and Stewart Island. When combined with other contextual information, such trends help identify the most significant clusters of LFPW strandings on the New Zealand coast, provide baseline ecological data on a poorly understood subspecies, and can be used to guide conservation management of G. m. edwardii in New Zealand waters.


Emerging hot spot analysis Globicephala melas Mass stranding event New Zealand Pilot whale Stranding database 



We thank the public for reporting stranded pilot whales around the coasts of New Zealand, and local iwi and hapu (representing the indigenous people of New Zealand) for cooperation in providing access to carcasses. We also thank the New Zealand Department of Conservation for collecting data from stranded whales, often in challenging locations and weather conditions, and for curating the New Zealand Whale Stranding Database. Project Jonah volunteers are thanked for providing valuable support during mass stranding events. A. Pastor and S. van de Gronde assisted with the initial stages of data cleaning. Manuscript preparation was supported by an Auckland University of Technology Doctoral Scholarship, Graduate Women New Zealand Postgraduate Fellowship, Claude McCarthy Fellowship, Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust Doctoral Award (ELB), Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (SM), Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship, and Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (KAS). This manuscript was improved thanks to the comments from two anonymous reviewers and the senior editor, A. Jackson.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural and Computational Sciences, College of SciencesMassey UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Science, Faculty of Health and Environmental SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, Department of Natural Sciences, School of Science and ComputingGalway-Mayo Institute of TechnologyGalwayIreland
  4. 4.Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  5. 5.Department of ConservationTe Papa AtawhaiWellingtonNew Zealand
  6. 6.School of Sport and Recreation, Faculty of Health and Environmental SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  7. 7.Sustainability Research CentreUniversity of the Sunshine CoastQueenslandAustralia
  8. 8.Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary ScienceMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  9. 9.International Whaling CommissionImpingtonUK

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