[MARMAM] New paper on the effects of seismic operations on bowhead whale behaviour

Robertson, Frances f.robertson at fisheries.ubc.ca
Wed Aug 14 09:55:34 PDT 2013

Dear MARMAM Subscribers,

We are pleased to announce the publication of the following paper online this week in Endangered Species Research,

Robertson FC, Koski WR, Thomas TA, Richardson WJ, Würsig B and Trites AW (2013) Seismic operations have variable effects on dive-cycle behavior of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea. Endangered Species Research 21: 143-160. doi: 10.3354/esr00515

ABSTRACT: The surfacing, respiration and diving (SRD) behavior of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus changes upon exposure to seismic operations. However, it is unknown whether these changes differ by season, reproductive status (calves, mothers, and non-calves), and whale activity (traveling, foraging, or socializing). Such SRD behavioral responses to seismic operations might influence the detectability of whales during aerial surveys. We addressed these questions by applying non-parametric univariate tests and linear mixed models to behavioral data collected by aerial observation of bowheads in the Beaufort Sea from 1980 to 2000. Durations of surfacings decreased upon exposure to seismic operations, especially for traveling or socializing non-calf whales. The mixed models also indicated that dive durations were affected by the presence of seismic operations, but the effects depended on other variables such as season and whale activity. Overall, our results suggest that changes in the behavior exhibited by bowhead whales exposed to seismic operations are context-dependent (i.e. responses to seismic operations depend on both the circumstance and activity of the whale). The level of perceived threat may also be important based on similarities with behavioral changes observed in other air-breathing aquatic foragers facing dangers. We conclude that seismic-induced changes in bowhead SRD behaviors may affect the availability of bowhead whales for visual detection in some circumstances. This in turn means that estimates of abundance and distribution of bowhead whales near seismic surveys should be context-sensitive and incorporate correction factors that account for sound exposure, season, reproductive status, and whale activity.

The paper is available online at http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esr/v21/n2/p143-160/
For a PDF copy of the paper please contact the corresponding author Frances Robertson at: f.robertson at fisheries.ubc.ca<mailto:f.robertson at fisheries.ubc.ca>

Best regards


Frances C. Robertson
PhD Candidate
Marine Mammal Research Unit
Fisheries Centre
University of British Columbia

Canada: 604 339 4967
US: 360 420 4403

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