Millions of seabirds use the waters off Baffin Island. Considering current and future vessel activity in this region, it is important to understand where vulnerability to anthropogenic threats is highest to enable sound wildlife management and regulatory decisions. Using kernel density analysis on at-sea survey data spanning 1970 to 1983 and 2007 to 2016, we identified marine areas of high density for five of the most abundant species sighted: Dovekie Alle alle, Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia, Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis and Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle, in summer (June–August) and fall (September–November). We quantified the level of vessel activity from vessel traffic data spanning 2011 to 2015. Overlapping these data layers, we identified regions where high vessel activity posed the highest risk to these species. Navy Board Inlet, Eclipse Sound, Frobisher Bay, Hudson Strait and the northern Labrador Shelf were consistently identified as areas of highest risk to multiple species of seabirds in summer and autumn. These waters not only encompass important summer foraging areas near colonies and post-breeding/migratory habitat but are also frequently navigated by vessels servicing busy communities. The level of vessel activity we found for the study area is relatively low compared to waters where many Arctic species overwinter (e.g., Thick-billed Murres off Newfoundland and Labrador). However, identifying current high-risk areas in Arctic waters is important for the conservation and management of Arctic seabirds as industrial and commercial development in this region expands and leads to higher levels of vessel activity.

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Ocean and Coastal Management
Department of Biology

Wong, S.N.P. (Sarah N.P.), Gjerdrum, C. (Carina), Gilchrist, H.G, & Mallory, M.L. (Mark L.). (2018). Seasonal vessel activity risk to seabirds in waters off Baffin Island, Canada. Ocean and Coastal Management, 163, 339–351. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2018.07.004