The diet of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Northeast Atlantic

Maria Begona Santos Vazquez, Graham John Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is probably the most abundant small cetaccan in the northeast Atlantic and as such is an important top predator. It is also one of the most threatened species, particularly as a consequence of fishery by-catch.

Porpoises feed mainly on small shoaling fishes from both demersal and pelagic habitats. Many prey items are probably taken on, or very close to, the sea bed. Even though a wide range of species has been recorded in the diet, porpoises in any one area tend to feed primarily on two to four main species (e.g. whiting (Merlangius merlangits) and sandeels (Ammodytidae) in Scottish waters).

Evidence for selective predation is equivocal. Many studies provide evidence of geographic, seasonal, interannual, ontogenetic or sexual differences in prey types or prey sizes, and such differences are often (speculatively) interpreted in terms of prey availability. A few studies demonstrate trends in diet selection that are consistent with changes in prey abundance. However, lack of availability of prey abundance data at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale is often a problem.

Porpoise diets overlap extensively with diets of other piscivorous marine predators (notably seals). Many of the main prey species are also taken by commercial fisheries, although porpoises tend to take smaller fishes than those targeted by fisheries. Given their high abundance, porpoises clearly remove substantial quantities of fish. The literature on porpoise diets in the northeast Atlantic suggests that there has been a longterm shift from predation on clupeid fish (mainly herring Clupea harengus) to predation on sandeels and gadoid fish, possibly related to the decline in herring stocks since the mid-1960s. Evidence from studies on seals suggests that such a shift could have adverse health consequences.

Food consumption brings porpoises into contact with two important threats - persistent organic contaminants and fishing nets, both of which have potentially serious impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-390
Number of pages35
JournalOceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review
Volume41
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords

  • seals phoca-vitulina
  • Moray-Firth Area
  • mitochondrial-DNA analysis
  • sandeel ammodytes-marinus
  • bottle-nosed dolphins
  • blubber-fatty acids
  • coastal waters
  • Baltic Sea
  • population-structure
  • stomach contents

Cite this

The diet of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Northeast Atlantic. / Santos Vazquez, Maria Begona; Pierce, Graham John.

In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, Vol. 41, 2003, p. 355-390.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Santos Vazquez, Maria Begona ; Pierce, Graham John. / The diet of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Northeast Atlantic. In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. 2003 ; Vol. 41. pp. 355-390.
@article{95f1272fdb444ccab6c4f2ab6df94af2,
title = "The diet of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Northeast Atlantic",
abstract = "The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is probably the most abundant small cetaccan in the northeast Atlantic and as such is an important top predator. It is also one of the most threatened species, particularly as a consequence of fishery by-catch.Porpoises feed mainly on small shoaling fishes from both demersal and pelagic habitats. Many prey items are probably taken on, or very close to, the sea bed. Even though a wide range of species has been recorded in the diet, porpoises in any one area tend to feed primarily on two to four main species (e.g. whiting (Merlangius merlangits) and sandeels (Ammodytidae) in Scottish waters).Evidence for selective predation is equivocal. Many studies provide evidence of geographic, seasonal, interannual, ontogenetic or sexual differences in prey types or prey sizes, and such differences are often (speculatively) interpreted in terms of prey availability. A few studies demonstrate trends in diet selection that are consistent with changes in prey abundance. However, lack of availability of prey abundance data at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale is often a problem.Porpoise diets overlap extensively with diets of other piscivorous marine predators (notably seals). Many of the main prey species are also taken by commercial fisheries, although porpoises tend to take smaller fishes than those targeted by fisheries. Given their high abundance, porpoises clearly remove substantial quantities of fish. The literature on porpoise diets in the northeast Atlantic suggests that there has been a longterm shift from predation on clupeid fish (mainly herring Clupea harengus) to predation on sandeels and gadoid fish, possibly related to the decline in herring stocks since the mid-1960s. Evidence from studies on seals suggests that such a shift could have adverse health consequences.Food consumption brings porpoises into contact with two important threats - persistent organic contaminants and fishing nets, both of which have potentially serious impacts.",
keywords = "seals phoca-vitulina, Moray-Firth Area, mitochondrial-DNA analysis, sandeel ammodytes-marinus, bottle-nosed dolphins, blubber-fatty acids, coastal waters, Baltic Sea, population-structure, stomach contents",
author = "{Santos Vazquez}, {Maria Begona} and Pierce, {Graham John}",
year = "2003",
language = "English",
volume = "41",
pages = "355--390",
journal = "Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review",
issn = "0078-3218",
publisher = "Taylor and Francis Ltd.",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The diet of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Northeast Atlantic

AU - Santos Vazquez, Maria Begona

AU - Pierce, Graham John

PY - 2003

Y1 - 2003

N2 - The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is probably the most abundant small cetaccan in the northeast Atlantic and as such is an important top predator. It is also one of the most threatened species, particularly as a consequence of fishery by-catch.Porpoises feed mainly on small shoaling fishes from both demersal and pelagic habitats. Many prey items are probably taken on, or very close to, the sea bed. Even though a wide range of species has been recorded in the diet, porpoises in any one area tend to feed primarily on two to four main species (e.g. whiting (Merlangius merlangits) and sandeels (Ammodytidae) in Scottish waters).Evidence for selective predation is equivocal. Many studies provide evidence of geographic, seasonal, interannual, ontogenetic or sexual differences in prey types or prey sizes, and such differences are often (speculatively) interpreted in terms of prey availability. A few studies demonstrate trends in diet selection that are consistent with changes in prey abundance. However, lack of availability of prey abundance data at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale is often a problem.Porpoise diets overlap extensively with diets of other piscivorous marine predators (notably seals). Many of the main prey species are also taken by commercial fisheries, although porpoises tend to take smaller fishes than those targeted by fisheries. Given their high abundance, porpoises clearly remove substantial quantities of fish. The literature on porpoise diets in the northeast Atlantic suggests that there has been a longterm shift from predation on clupeid fish (mainly herring Clupea harengus) to predation on sandeels and gadoid fish, possibly related to the decline in herring stocks since the mid-1960s. Evidence from studies on seals suggests that such a shift could have adverse health consequences.Food consumption brings porpoises into contact with two important threats - persistent organic contaminants and fishing nets, both of which have potentially serious impacts.

AB - The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is probably the most abundant small cetaccan in the northeast Atlantic and as such is an important top predator. It is also one of the most threatened species, particularly as a consequence of fishery by-catch.Porpoises feed mainly on small shoaling fishes from both demersal and pelagic habitats. Many prey items are probably taken on, or very close to, the sea bed. Even though a wide range of species has been recorded in the diet, porpoises in any one area tend to feed primarily on two to four main species (e.g. whiting (Merlangius merlangits) and sandeels (Ammodytidae) in Scottish waters).Evidence for selective predation is equivocal. Many studies provide evidence of geographic, seasonal, interannual, ontogenetic or sexual differences in prey types or prey sizes, and such differences are often (speculatively) interpreted in terms of prey availability. A few studies demonstrate trends in diet selection that are consistent with changes in prey abundance. However, lack of availability of prey abundance data at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale is often a problem.Porpoise diets overlap extensively with diets of other piscivorous marine predators (notably seals). Many of the main prey species are also taken by commercial fisheries, although porpoises tend to take smaller fishes than those targeted by fisheries. Given their high abundance, porpoises clearly remove substantial quantities of fish. The literature on porpoise diets in the northeast Atlantic suggests that there has been a longterm shift from predation on clupeid fish (mainly herring Clupea harengus) to predation on sandeels and gadoid fish, possibly related to the decline in herring stocks since the mid-1960s. Evidence from studies on seals suggests that such a shift could have adverse health consequences.Food consumption brings porpoises into contact with two important threats - persistent organic contaminants and fishing nets, both of which have potentially serious impacts.

KW - seals phoca-vitulina

KW - Moray-Firth Area

KW - mitochondrial-DNA analysis

KW - sandeel ammodytes-marinus

KW - bottle-nosed dolphins

KW - blubber-fatty acids

KW - coastal waters

KW - Baltic Sea

KW - population-structure

KW - stomach contents

M3 - Article

VL - 41

SP - 355

EP - 390

JO - Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review

JF - Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review

SN - 0078-3218

ER -