Presentation Abstract

Prey availability and disturbance from vessels and noise are identified threats to the recovery of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Vessels and noise can mask echolocation signals used to capture fish prey and/or disrupt foraging behavior with implications for energy acquisition. In the U.S., vessel regulations have been implemented since 2011 to protect killer whales from vessel disturbance, particularly given the extent of whale-watching activities in the Salish Sea. We utilized suction cup-attached digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs), consisting of hydrophones and movement sensors, to measure received noise levels, understanding killer whale use of sound, and determine effects of vessels and noise on subsurface behavior. During the 29 tag deployments on individually identified killer whales, we collected detailed geo-referenced vessel data concurrently as conditions allowed, along with opportunistic observations of predation to validate feeding. Received noise levels (dB re 1microPa) were significantly different across years but not consistently lower after the implementation of vessel regulations. Of the vessel factors considered, both vessel count and speed, but not distance, explained differences in noise levels, which may reflect changes in whale-watching vessel practices after regulations implementation. Additionally, the analysis of data from these animal-borne tags allow us to better understand subsurface foraging behavior involving the use of sound, to quantify foraging rates at an individual level, and to understand detailed vessel and noise effects. The results, along with those of other related studies, inform conservation and management measures that aim to promote Southern Resident recovery.

Session Title

Collaborating to Reduce Impacts of Underwater Noise from Vessels on SKRW: Biological Impacts of Underwater Noise from Vessels

Keywords

Killer whales, Vessel noise

Conference Track

SSE14: Vessel Traffic: Risks and Impacts

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)

Document Type

Event

SSEC Identifier

SSE14-405

Start Date

6-4-2018 9:15 AM

End Date

6-4-2018 9:30 AM

Type of Presentation

Oral

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Apr 6th, 9:15 AM Apr 6th, 9:30 AM

Using DTAGs to understand sound use, behavior, and vessel and associated noise effects in Southern Resident killer whales

Prey availability and disturbance from vessels and noise are identified threats to the recovery of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Vessels and noise can mask echolocation signals used to capture fish prey and/or disrupt foraging behavior with implications for energy acquisition. In the U.S., vessel regulations have been implemented since 2011 to protect killer whales from vessel disturbance, particularly given the extent of whale-watching activities in the Salish Sea. We utilized suction cup-attached digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs), consisting of hydrophones and movement sensors, to measure received noise levels, understanding killer whale use of sound, and determine effects of vessels and noise on subsurface behavior. During the 29 tag deployments on individually identified killer whales, we collected detailed geo-referenced vessel data concurrently as conditions allowed, along with opportunistic observations of predation to validate feeding. Received noise levels (dB re 1microPa) were significantly different across years but not consistently lower after the implementation of vessel regulations. Of the vessel factors considered, both vessel count and speed, but not distance, explained differences in noise levels, which may reflect changes in whale-watching vessel practices after regulations implementation. Additionally, the analysis of data from these animal-borne tags allow us to better understand subsurface foraging behavior involving the use of sound, to quantify foraging rates at an individual level, and to understand detailed vessel and noise effects. The results, along with those of other related studies, inform conservation and management measures that aim to promote Southern Resident recovery.