Cetacean stranding records along the Pacific coastline of Guatemala, 2007–2021: Implications for management, conservation and research

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Cetacean strandings constitute one of the most important sources of information for studying cetacean diversity and obtaining basic biological data. The Guatemalan Pacific Ocean supports a high diversity of cetaceans, with at least 19 confirmed species records. However, little is known about cetacean strandings in Guatemala and their association with anthropogenic activities. We reviewed the occurrence of cetacean strandings on the Pacific coastline of Guatemala between 2007 and 2021. Stranding records were obtained from publications and citizen science such as sporadic reports from third parties, local and social media. In total, 39 stranding events from 12 species were recorded over the 15-year period examined. Stranded species belong to five families: Delphinidae, Kogiidae, Ziphiidae, Balaenopteridae and Eschrichtiidae. The striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba, n = 6), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, n = 6), spinner dolphin (S. longirostris, n = 5), spotted dolphin (S. attenuata, n = 4), and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae, n = 4) were the most frequently stranded species. For three of the stranded species, the melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), and gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), these stranding records represent the first confirmed report of the species in Guatemalan waters. Although we could not determine the cause of stranding in most cases, at least 15% of stranded individuals presented marks or injuries that could be associated with anthropogenic activities, such as fisheries or vessel strikes. This study highlights the importance of stranding data and the need to create a national network to allow timely response to stranding events and to enable improved data collection protocols. A well-curated cetacean stranding database is crucial for scientific research as well as to implement management and conservation measures to protect these species in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104827
JournalMarine Policy
Volume134
Number of pages8
ISSN0308-597X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank people who contributed to this review by providing their opportunistic cetacean stranding records, including E.C. Mechel-Bay, M.J. Gonz?lez-Bernat, S. Tobar-Hurtado, A.L. Reyna-Guti?rrez, C.E. Fuentes-Montejo, R. Sig?enza, P. Vel?squez-Jofre, A. L?pez-Roulet, D. Dom?nguez, J.C. Tejeda-Mazariegos, H. Navarro, W. Bachara, J.F. Moreira-Ram?rez, M.C. Orantes. We are grateful to all anonymous colleagues who collaborated in the verification of rare and in an advanced state of decomposition species. We also thank the authors of the photographs of Figs. 3 and 4 of this review, credits go to: Peri?dico El Escuintleco (Fig. 3A); M. Chilin (Fig. 3B); M.J. Gonz?lez-Bernat (Figs. 3Cy 4F); R. Ruiz (Fig. 4C); M. Chinchilla (Fig. 4D) and A.L. Reyna-Guti?rrez (Fig. 4E). To the University of San Carlos of Guatemala and the ?Direcci?n General de Investigaci?n? who funded the project ?Cet?ceos del Pac?fico oeste de Guatemala, y su importancia en el desarrollo socio-econ?mico y ambiental del Pac?fico guatemalteco? (proyecto 4.8.63.7.08) in 2012, which served as bases and inspiration for this work. Finally, we want to thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable contribution to improve this work. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. None.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Baleen whales, Central America, Conservation, Human impact, Stranding, Toothed whales

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