Rob Williams

Rob Williams

PhD

About

124
Publications
50,223
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
5,273
Citations
Introduction
If you're interested in my publication list, please see my Google Scholar profile: http://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=0HVlu3YAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao
Skills and Expertise
Additional affiliations
January 2011 - present
January 2004 - December 2007
University of St Andrews
January 2002 - December 2012
University of British Columbia - Vancouver

Publications

Publications (124)
Article
Potential harm is understudied and largely overlooked
Article
Full-text available
This tool provides a way for managers and other stakeholders to explore bycatch scenarios, based on simple information about marine mammal life history and rough estimates of abundance and bycatch. The tool consists of an R package (R Core Team, 2021) and a Shiny application (Chang et al., 2021). The primary machinery in the package is an age-struc...
Article
Full-text available
Motorized vessels are a major source of anthropogenic noise and can have adverse effects on species relying on sound for communication and feeding. Monitoring noise levels received by endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) requires knowing the number, distance, and speed of surrounding vessels, including small boats that do not have Aut...
Article
There is growing concern about impacts of ship and small boat noise on marine wildlife. Few studies have quantified impacts of anthropogenic noise on ecologically, economically, and culturally important fish. We conducted open net pen experiments to measure Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) and juvenile salmon (pink, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, and chu...
Article
Full-text available
Fisheries bycatch is the greatest current source of human-caused deaths of marine mammals worldwide, with severe impacts on the health and viability of many populations. Recent regulations enacted in the United States under the Fish and Fish Product Import Provisions of its Marine Mammal Protection Act require nations with fisheries exporting fish...
Article
Full-text available
Bycatch in marine fisheries is the leading source of human-caused mortality for marine mammals, has contributed to substantial declines of many marine mammal populations and species, and the extinction of at least one. Schemes for evaluating marine mammal bycatch largely rely on estimates of abundance and bycatch, which are needed for calculating b...
Article
Full-text available
Decades after a ban on hunting, and despite focused management interventions, the endangered St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) population has failed to recover. We applied a population viability analysis to simulate the responses of the SLE beluga population across a wide range of variability and uncertainty under current an...
Article
Disturbance from underwater noise is one of the primary threats to the critically endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKWs). Previous studies have demonstrated that SRKWs spend less time feeding when vessels are present. In 2018, we measured the effects of a voluntary vessel slowdown action in SRKW critical habitat to assess whether ship s...
Article
Full-text available
Endangered species legislation in the United States and Canada aims to prevent extinction of species, in part by designating and protecting critical habitats essential to ensure survival and recovery. These strict laws prohibit adverse modification or destruction of critical habitat, respectively. Defining thresholds for such effects is challenging...
Article
Full-text available
Motivated by the need to estimate the abundance of marine mammal populations to inform conservation assessments, especially relating to fishery bycatch, this paper provides background on abundance estimation and reviews the various methods available for pinnipeds, cetaceans and sirenians. We first give an “entry-level” introduction to abundance est...
Article
Full-text available
A low-cost, small-boat, rapid assessment survey was conducted on the waters off the southern Peninsula of Bali. The objectives were: (1) to conduct an inventory of cetacean species in the study area; (2) to map cetacean distribution to inform the design of the Badung MPA; (3) to estimate relative abundance of cetaceans and record information on pre...
Article
Full-text available
Killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations specialize in both prey and prey acquisition tactics around the world and may be a primary evolutionary driver of the habits of small cetaceans. Entanglement in fishing gear is the most significant anthropogenic threat to the survival of cetaceans worldwide. Distinguishing between natural and human-caused sou...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of human-caused mortality, such as fisheries bycatch, of endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species of marine mammals can be evaluated using population model-based stock assessments. The information available to conduct such assessments is often very limited. Available data might include fragmented time-series of abundance estim...
Article
Full-text available
Preventing declines in common species is key to sustaining the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Yet for many common marine mammals, including oceanic dolphins, statistical power to detect declines remains low due to patchy distribution and large variability in group sizes. In this study, population viability analyses (PVA) were used to...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Evaluations of the conservation status of the endangered North Atlantic right whale as well as many other wildlife species often rely extensively on counts and cause‐of‐death determinations of carcasses found accidentally or during dedicated surveys. Even when survey effort dedicated to a population is extensive, many deaths may go unseen....
Article
Full-text available
Determining acceptable rates of human‐caused mortality in low‐data situations is a concern for many taxa worldwide. An established approach for determining acceptable levels of human‐caused mortality of marine mammals and other species of conservation concern is the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) framework, but PBR requires near‐unbiased estima...
Article
Full-text available
Recent years have seen the rapid development of tools and approaches to model the population consequences of disturbance in several marine mammal populations from high-amplitude, acute sound sources. Ocean noise from shipping and other maritime activities is now recognised as a chronic, habitat-level stressor. Advances are needed in several key are...
Article
Full-text available
Military operations may result in noise impacts on surrounding communities and wildlife. A recent transition to more powerful military aircraft and a national consolidation of training operations to Whidbey Island, WA, USA, provided a unique opportunity to measure and assess both in-air and underwater noise associated with military aircraft. In-air...
Article
The potential biological removal (PBR) formula used to determine a reference point for human-caused mortality of marine mammals in the United States has been shown to be robust to several sources of uncertainty. This study investigates the consequences of the quality of monitoring on PBR performance. It also explores stochastic and demographic unce...
Article
Full-text available
The potential biological removal (PBR) formula used to determine a reference point for human-caused mortality of marine mammals in the United States has been shown to be robust to several sources of uncertainty. This study investigates the consequences of the quality of monitoring on PBR performance. It also explores stochastic and demographic unce...
Article
A Management Strategy Evaluation is used to estimate success at achieving conservation goals for marine mammals while also aiming to minimize impacts on commercial fisheries. It is intended to improve understanding of US import rules that require nations exporting fish and fish products to the US to adhere to marine mammal bycatch standards “compar...
Article
The conservation status of wild walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) is influenced by rapid warming of the Arctic, loss of seasonal sea ice, and increasing pressures related to anthropogenic activities and associated noise. Few data are available regarding acoustic sensitivity in walruses, although the species is known to be vulnerable to human disturbance...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropogenic noise associated with shipping has emerged as a major disruptor of aquatic animal behavior worldwide. The Arctic marine realm has historically experienced little noise‐generating human activity; however, the continual loss of sea ice has facilitated a dramatic increase in shipping activity. Here we use a combination of acoustic teleme...
Article
Full-text available
This study investigates the distribution of Antarctic minke whales (AMW) in relation to sea ice concentration and variations therein. Information on AMW densities in the sea ice‐covered parts of the Southern Ocean is required to contextualize abundance estimates obtained from circumpolar shipboard surveys in open waters, suggesting a 30% decline in...
Article
Evolutionary relationships among cetaceans within the family Delphinidae have been difficult to resolve due to the high number of species and their relatively rapid radiation. This is the case for the dolphin species currently placed in the genus Lagenorhynchus, and their relations to Cephalorhynchus and Lissodelphis species. Phylogenetic relations...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of underwater noise pollution on marine life are of increasing concern. Research and management have focussed on the strongest underwater sound sources. Aerial sound sources have understandably been ignored as sound transmits poorly across the air-water interface. However, there might be situations when air-borne noise cannot be dismiss...
Preprint
Taking advantage of a religious holiday called Nyepi that curtailed human activities for one day, we recorded acoustic noise levels for one week in shallow waters of a little-trafficked area west of Bali below the Ngurah Rai airport flight path (Figure 1). Sound is as important to many marine organisms as vision is to humans. From the song of the h...
Preprint
Shipping is key to global trade, but is also a dominant source of anthropogenic noise in the ocean. Chronic noise from ships can affect acoustic quality of important whale habitats. Noise from ships has been identified as one of three main stressors–in addition to contaminants, and lack of Chinook salmon prey–in the recovery of the endangered south...
Article
Shipping is key to global trade, but is also a dominant source of anthropogenic noise in the ocean. Chronic noise from ships can affect acoustic quality of important whale habitats. Noise from ships has been identified as one of three main stressors-in addition to contaminants, and lack of Chinook salmon prey-in the recovery of the endangered south...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Species distribution models are useful tools for depicting important habitat, assessing abundance and orienting conservation efforts. For small populations in poorly studied ecosystems, available data are often scarce and patchy. To overcome this limitation, we aim to evaluate the use of different data types within a hierarchical Bayesian frame...
Preprint
Full-text available
Underwater noise pollution from ships is a chronic, global stressor impacting a wide range of marine species. Ambient ocean noise levels nearly doubled each decade from 1963-2007 in low-frequency bands attributed to shipping, inspiring a pledge from the International Maritime Organization to reduce ship noise and a call from the International Whali...
Preprint
Full-text available
Underwater noise pollution from ships is a chronic, global stressor impacting a wide range of marine species. Ambient ocean noise levels nearly doubled each decade from 1963-2007 in low-frequency bands attributed to shipping, inspiring a pledge from the International Maritime Organization to reduce ship noise and a call from the International Whali...
Article
The potential impact of exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on the health and survival of cetaceans continues to be an issue for conservation and management, yet few quantitative approaches for estimating population level effects have been developed. An individual based model (IBM) for assessing effects on both calf survival and immunity w...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding cumulative effects of multiple threats is key to guiding effective management to conserve endangered species. The critically endangered, Southern Resident killer whale population of the northeastern Pacific Ocean provides a data-rich case to explore anthropogenic threats on population viability. Primary threats include: limitation of...
Article
Full-text available
Small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) face serious anthropogenic threats in coastal habitats. These include bycatch in fisheries; exposure to noise, plastic and chemical pollution; disturbance from boaters; and climate change. Generating reliable abundance estimates is essential to assess sustainability of bycatch in fishing gear or any other fo...
Article
Full-text available
The St. Lawrence Estuary (“SLE”) population of beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) was depleted by hunting. The population failed to increase in numbers at the rate one would expect after cessation of hunting. We conducted a population viability analysis (“PVA”) to quantify factors that most likely limit recovery of SLE beluga. The main threats consider...
Article
Full-text available
Increasingly disrupted and altered, the world's oceans are subject to immense and intensifying anthropogenic pressures. Of the biota inhabiting these ecosystems, marine birds are among the most threatened. For conservation efforts targeting marine birds to be effective, quantitative information relating to their at-sea density and distribution is t...
Article
Full-text available
Intense underwater sounds caused by military sonar, seismic surveys, and pile driving can harm acoustically sensitive marine mammals. Many jurisdictions require such activities to undergo marine mammal impact assessments to guide mitigation. However, the ability to assess impacts in a rigorous, quantitative way is hindered by large knowledge gaps c...
Article
On 1 January 2017, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will enact a new rule ( 1 ) requiring countries exporting seafood to the United States to demonstrate that their fisheries comply with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The United States is the world's largest seafood importer ( 2 ); the MMPA is among the...
Article
Full-text available
As sublethal human pressures on marine wildlife and their habitats increase and interact in complex ways, there is a pressing need for methods to quantify cumulative impacts of these stressors on populations, and policy decisions about allowable harm limits. Few studies quantify population consequences of individual stressors, and fewer quantify sy...
Article
With increasing human pressures on wildlife comes a responsibility to monitor them effectively, particularly in an environment of declining research funds. Scarce funding resources compromise the level and efficacy of monitoring possible to detect trends in abundance, highlighting the priority for developing cost-effective programs. A systematic an...
Article
Full-text available
ABSTRACT: Whale-watching activities can induce behavioral changes that may negatively affect cetacean populations. However, these changes may vary depending on species, populations and environmental features. It is important to determine inter-specific variation in cetacean responses to stressors in order to identify the best metrics for evaluation...
Article
Full-text available
Resident, fish-eating killer whales in the northeastern Pacific Ocean live in multi-generational matrilines containing both sexes. The degree of maternal fidelity and natal philopatry in this killer whale society is extreme even by the standards of lions, elephants or any highly social mammal. Benefits of group living include cooperative foraging a...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropogenic underwater noise is now recognized as a worldwide problem, and recent studies have shown a broad range of negative effects in a variety of taxa. Underwater noise from shipping is increasingly recognized as a significant and pervasive pollutant with the potential to impact marine ecosystems on a global scale. We reviewed six regional c...
Article
Full-text available
A core task in endangered species conservation is identifying important habitats and managing human activities to mitigate threats. Many marine organisms, from invertebrates to fish to marine mammals, use acoustic cues to find food, avoid predators, choose mates, and navigate. Ocean noise can affect animal behavior and disrupt trophic linkages. Sub...
Article
Full-text available
To develop appropriate spatial conservation planning for individual species, it is important to understand their habitat requirements and in particular to identify areas where critical life-history process such as breeding, weaning or feeding take place. The process of defining critical habitat often ignores behavioural aspects of animal distributi...
Article
Full-text available
Accelerated contamination of habitats with debris has caused increased effort to determine ecological impacts. Strikingly, most work on organisms focuses on sublethal responses to plastic debris. This is controversial because (i) researchers have ignored medical insights about the mechanisms that link effects of debris across lower levels of biolog...
Article
Full-text available
Information relating to the distribution and abundance of species is critical for effective conservation and management. For many species, including cetacean species of conservation concern, abundance estimates are lacking, out of date and/or highly uncertain. Systematic, line-transect marine mammal surveys were conducted in British Columbia's (BC)...
Article
The inshore, continental shelf waters of British Columbia (BC), Canada are busy with ship traffic. South coast waters are heavily trafficked by ships using the ports of Vancouver and Seattle. North coast waters are less busy, but expected to get busier based on proposals for container port and liquefied natural gas development and expansion. Abunda...
Article
Full-text available
Estimating abundance of Antarctic minke whales is central to the International Whaling Commission's conservation and management work and understanding impacts of climate change on polar marine ecosystems. Detecting abundance trends is problematic, in part because minke whales are frequently sighted within Antarctic sea ice where navigational safety...
Article
Full-text available
The inshore, continental shelf waters of British Columbia (BC), Canada are busy with ship traffic. South coast waters are heavily trafficked by ships using the ports of Vancouver and Seattle. North coast waters are less busy, but expected to get busier based on proposals for container port and liquefied natural gas development and expansion. Abunda...
Article
Full-text available
Critical habitats of at-risk populations of northeast Pacific "resident" killer whales can be heavily trafficked by large ships, with transits occurring on average once every hour in busy shipping lanes. We modeled behavioral responses of killer whales to ship transits during 35 "natural experiments" as a dose-response function of estimated receive...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
With reports of increasing gelatinous zooplankton biomass in the east Bering Sea, the presence of one of the ocean's largest jelly-eating predators, ocean sunfish Mola mola, in northeastern Pacific waters merits closer scrutiny. Using shipboard surveys and standard line-transect survey field protocols, the presence and absence of M. mola in the wat...