Protected Species Branch Staff

Chris Orphanides

Chris Orphanides


As a member of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Protected Species Branch since 2004, Chris Orphanides has conducted research on cetacean, pinniped, and sea turtle bycatch, habitat, and distribution to inform fisheries management. Since 2006 he has been particularly involved in harbor porpoise bycatch issues, calculating annual gillnet bycatch estimates, investigating alternate bycatch estimation methods, publishing a comprehensive review on the effectiveness of harbor porpoise management measures, and serving as the lead science advisor to the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team.

Chris has also contributed to several PSB research projects by linking protected species analysis with oceanographic data from satellites and ocean models. He has often served as an advisor to analyses associated with satellite data and geographic information systems and has created programs that process and link various oceanographic variables to protected species bycatch, habitat, and abundance models.

Current Research

While continuing to serve as a bycatch analyst, these past few years Chris has expanded his research into marine mammal foraging ecology as it relates to oceanography, bycatch, and marine mammal distribution. In 2014 he was accepted into NOAA's Advanced Study Program and is currently pursuing a PhD in Oceanography at URI. A portion of his dissertation assesses harbor porpoise diet in southern New England where most northwest Atlantic harbor porpoise bycatch has occurred in recent years, and where harbor porpoise diet has never been studied. The research is shedding light on seasonal foraging plasticity, prey preferences, and the relationship (or lack thereof) between fisheries catch and harbor porpoise bycatch. Additional dissertation chapters will use active acoustics to examine prey availability as it relates to marine mammal distribution along the shelf break south of New England. Potential applications of this work include input into ecosystem models to be used for fisheries management, assessing tradeoffs between fisheries and top predators, improving abundance models, and evaluating potential impacts of climate change on marine mammal populations.

Chris is also part of national report efforts on bycatch, climate, and ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM). He is currently contributing to the development of the most recent update to the National Bycatch Report due out in early 2018. He is part of a team of experts assessing marine mammal vulnerability to climate change and was the protected species representative in the development of the northeast regional action plan for NOAA Fisheries climate science strategy. He is also helping develop an EBFM Roadmap for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Chris aims to continue conducting research that is directly applicable to management by linking protected species to ecology and oceanography.


URI Graduate School of Oceanography, PhD in progress

Duke University, MEM Coastal Environmental Management, 2001

Colby College, BS Environmental Studies & History, 1995

Selected Publications

Orphanides CD, Hatch J. in press. Estimates of cetacean and pinniped bycatch in the 2015 New England sink and mid-Atlantic gillnet fisheries. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc.

Hare JA, Borggaard DL, Friedland KD, Anderson J, Burns P, Chu K, Clay PM, Collins MJ, Cooper P, Fratantoni PS, Johnson MR, Manderson JF, Milke L, Miller TJ, Orphanides CD, Saba VS. 2016. Northeast Regional Action Plan - NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy. NOAA Tech Memo NMFS NE 239; 94 p. Available from: National Marine Fisheries Service, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026, or online at

Orphanides, CD, Palka DL. 2013. Analysis of harbor porpoise gillnet bycatch, compliance, and enforcement trends in the US northwestern Atlantic, January 1999 to May 2010. Endangered Species Research. 20(3):251-269

Murray KT, Orphanides CD. 2013. Estimating the risk of loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta bycatch in the US mid-Atlantic using fishery-independent and -dependent data. Marine Ecology Progress Series 477:259-270.

Orphanides CD. 2012. New England harbor porpoise bycatch rates during 2010-2012 associated with Consequence Closure Areas. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 12-19; 15 p. Available from: National Marine Fisheries Service, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026, or online at

Palka DL, Rossman MC, Van Atten AS, Orphanides CD. 2008. Effect of pingers on harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) bycatch in the US Northeast gillnet fishery. Journal of Cetacean Research & Management. 10(3):217-226.


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