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J Acoust Soc Am. 1986 Apr;79(4):1117-28.

Reactions of bowhead whales, Balaena mysticetus, to seismic exploration in the Canadian Beaufort Sea.

Abstract

The behavioral reactions of bowhead whales to distant seismic vessels not under our control, a controlled approach by a seismic vessel, and controlled tests with a single airgun were observed. On 21 occasions in the summers of 1980-84, general activities of bowheads exposed to pulses of underwater noise (107-158 dB re: 1 mu Pa) from seismic vessels 6-99 km away were observed. Activities were indistinguishable from those without seismic noise; there was no detectable avoidance. Hints of subtle changes in surfacing, respiration, and diving behavior were unconfirmed, but were consistent with reactions to stronger noise pulses from closer seismic boats. In a test with a full-scale seismic boat (30 airguns totaling 471, source level 248 dB re: 1 mu Pa, closest point of approach = 1 1/2 km), bowheads began to orient away when the airgun array began to fire 7 1/2 km away. However, some whales continued apparent near-bottom feeding until the vessel was 3 km away. Whales were displaced by about 2 km. Reactions were not much stronger than those to any conventional vessel. Tests with one 0.66-1 airgun showed that some bowheads move away from sources of strong seismic impulses even in the absence of boat noise, and that bowheads can detect the direction from which seismic impulses arrive. In general, bowheads exhibit avoidance reactions when they receive seismic pulses stronger than about 160 dB re: 1 mu Pa. Evidence of reactions to lower received levels remains inconclusive.

PMID:
3700867
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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