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The purpose of GulfCet I was to determine the distribution and abundance of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in areas potentially affected by future oil and gas activities along the continental slope in the north-central and western Gulf of Mexico. This 3.75 year project commenced on 1 October 1991 and concluded on 15 July 1995. The study area was bounded by the Florida-Alabama border, the Texas-Mexico border, and the 100-m and 2,000-m isobaths. The distribution and abundance of cetaceans were determined from seasonal aerial and shipboard visual surveys and shipboard acoustic surveys. In addition, hydrographic data were collected in situ and by satellite remote sensing to characterize the habitats of cetaceans in the study area. Finally, tagging and tracking of sperm whales using satellite telemetry was attempted.

The purpose of the GulfCet II program is to conduct studies on cetaceans at sea in the northern Gulf of Mexico to determine the seasonal and geographic distribution of cetaceans and to characterize their habitat in areas potentially affected by oil and gas activities now or in the future. This program will include systematic aerial overflights and shipboard surveys to document cetacean and sea turtle populations. This work will be accompanied by physical and biological oceanographic data acquisition designed to further characterize habitats and reveal cetacean-habitat associations. The work is intended as an areal and temporal extension of the GulfCet I Program.

An important goal of this program is to determine which cetacean species may potentially be affected by present and future oil and gas activities based on analyses of seasonal and geographic distribution of each species, as well as interpretation of behavioral information collected during this study and from previous surveys. Evaluation will result in the determination of which species could potentially be affected, estimation of the proportion of the population this would represent, geographic and temporal degree of effect, and effect on critical activities (i.e., breeding, feeding, and mating areas).