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Ecology - Science Policy


Changes in Humpback Whale Song Occurrence in Response to an Acoustic Source 200 km Away
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Author: Denise Risch et al.

by Denise Risch, Peter J. Corkeron, William T. Ellison, Sofie M. Van Parijs

The effect of underwater anthropogenic sound on marine mammals is of increasing concern. Here we show that humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) was reduced, concurrent with transmissions of an Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing (OAWRS) experiment approximately 200 km away. We detected the OAWRS experiment in SBNMS during an 11 day period in autumn 2006. We compared the occurrence of song for 11 days before, during and after the experiment with song over the same 33 calendar days in two later years. Using a quasi-Poisson generalized linear model (GLM), we demonstrate a significant difference in the number of minutes with detected song between periods and years. The lack of humpback whale song during the OAWRS experiment was the most substantial signal in the data. Our findings demonstrate the greatest published distance over which anthropogenic sound has been shown to affect vocalizing baleen whales, and the first time that active acoustic fisheries technology has been shown to have this effect. The suitability of Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing technology for in-situ, long term monitoring of marine ecosystems should be considered, bearing in mind its possible effects on non-target species, in particular protected species.
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