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Research Technical Report

Reducing Disturbances to Marine Mammals by Kayakers in the Monterey Bay

Gunvalson, M.M. (May 2011)

M.S. Thesis, San Jose State University, 77pp.


Team OCEAN is a kayaker-outreach program located in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose goal is to reduce disturbances to marine mammals by kayakers. This study documented the interactions between kayakers and resting harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) at Team OCEAN's two outreach sites, Cannery Row and Elkhorn Slough, to determine if outreach was effective in reducing disturbances to harbor seals and sea otters. No difference was observed in the percentage of kayaks causing disturbances to resting harbor seals when comparing days Team OCEAN was on the water to days they were not present. However, the percentage of kayaks causing disturbances to resting sea otters was significantly lower when Team OCEAN was present. Kayaks that approached animals directly were responsible for significantly more intense disturbances than those that approached animals tangentially. Recommendations from this study include a continued presence of Team OCEAN at both sites and the extension of the program into the fall months during weekends.