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Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Feb 15;103(1-2):72-83. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.12.044. Epub 2016 Jan 9.

Response of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) to ramp-up of a small experimental air gun array.

Author information

1
School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Gatton, Queensland 4343, Australia. Electronic address: r.dunlop@uq.edu.au.
2
School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Gatton, Queensland 4343, Australia.
3
Curtin University, GPO Box U 1987, Perth, 6845, WA, Australia.
4
School of Engineering, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
5
Blue Planet Marine, P.O. Box 919, Canberra, ACT 2614, Australia.
6
Defence Science and Technology Group, University of Sydney, PO Box 44, Pyrmont, NSW 2009, Australia.

Abstract

'Ramp-up', or 'soft start', is a mitigation measure used in seismic surveys and involves increasing the radiated sound level over 20-40 min. This study compared the behavioural response in migrating humpback whales to the first stages of ramp-up with the response to a 'constant' source, 'controls' (in which the array was towed but not operated) with groups in the absence of the source vessel used as the 'baseline'. Although the behavioural response, in most groups, resulted in an increase in distance from the source (potential avoidance), there was no evidence that either 'ramp-up' or the constant source at a higher level was superior for triggering whales to move away from the source vessel. 'Control' groups also responded suggesting the presence of the source vessel had some effect. However, the majority of groups appeared to avoid the source vessel at distances greater than the radius of most mitigation zones.

KEYWORDS:

Acoustic exposure; Behavioural response; Seismic mitigation; Seismic ramp-up

PMID:
26781958
DOI:
10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.12.044
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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