An improved method for line transect sampling in Antarctic minke whale surveys

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Hiroshi Okamura
Toshihide Kitakado
Mitsuyo Mori


The series of abundance estimates for Antarctic minke whales obtained using standard line transect methods from IWC/SOWER surveys imply drastic (and probably unrealistic) changes in true abundance. One possible factor is that the detection probability on the trackline, g(0), may have decreased with the introduction of inexperienced observers in the most recent surveys. Additionally, mean observed school size may have decreased in the third circumpolar survey in comparison with the second survey. This paper introduces an extended and generalised hazard probability model without the assumption that g(0)=1 to estimate true school size distribution in the population. The proposed method uses a survey design that combines the use of both passing mode with independent observers and closing mode in which the vessel turns off the trackline and closes with the sighting for confirmation of school size and species. The abundance estimate is based on the Horvitz-Thompson estimator in an unequal detectability sampling scheme. The method is applied to the IDCR/SOWER dataset of Antarctic minke whales for illustrative purposes.

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