[MARMAM] MMS Gulf of Mexico Sperm Whale Synthesis Report Available

Dagmar Fertl dagmar_fertl at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 28 21:10:05 PDT 2008

The following (press release from Minerals Management Service) might be of interest to Marmam and ECS-news list subscribers. Pdf link is listed at bottom of email, but note it is an extremely large file. Please direct any inquiries to the Minerals Management Service directly.
MMS Releases Synthesis Report on Six-Year, $9.3 Million Study Project
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) released the results of a six-year, $9.3 million study on sperm whales, an endangered species living in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Sperm Whale Seismic Study (SWSS) focused on the effects of seismic activities on sperm whales living in an area that is highly industrialized with oil and gas exploration and production activities.
One finding supported by SWSS data is that Northern Gulf of Mexico sperm whales are a distinct stock; that is, they show genetic differences from other sperm whales world-wide. Also, based on tag location data, the Gulf sperm whales showed no discernible seasonal migration. The study also did not find any horizontal avoidance of seismic sounds, meaning the whales did not alter their visible behavior on the surface when exposed to seismic sounds. 
“I am very pleased that MMS could add such a large volume of data on this endangered species to the scientific body of knowledge,” said Randall Luthi, MMS Director. “As oil and gas operations expand further into the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, it is essential for MMS to understand the marine mammals in their environment.”
Data gathered during SWSS provides insights into daily and seasonal movements, abundance, group structure, diving and other behaviors, habitat characteristics, and response to human-made noise, of sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This information will help MMS evaluate whether whales prefer some locations, what effects human activities (such as seismic surveys) may have on the whales, and possible mitigation measures.
According to Carol Roden, an MMS biologist on the project, “SWSS has given scientists a fascinating look at the unique northern Gulf of Mexico sperm whale population. The collaboration and dedication of such a diverse group of researchers made SWSS a multi-faceted effort that approached the study goals from varied perspectives and resulted in new ways to gather data on these endangered animals.”
The report, “Sperm Whale Seismic Study in the Gulf of Mexico: Synthesis Report (MMS 2008-006),” (58.95 MB Adobe PDF format file) presents results from the SWSS study and gives recommendations for future study.
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