[MARMAM] New Publication on whale alarms

VANESSA PIROTTA vanessa.pirotta at students.mq.edu.au
Thu Jul 31 18:38:47 PDT 2014

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the recent publication published in Endangered
Species Research Volume 25, page 35:
A whale alarm fails to deter migrating humpback whales: an empirical test
Robert Harcourt1,*, Vanessa Pirotta1, Gillian Heller2, Victor Peddemors3,
David Slip1,4
1 Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW
2109, Australia
2 Department of Statistics, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109,
3 Fisheries NSW, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Sydney, NSW 2088,
4 Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Sydney, NSW 2088, Australia
*Corresponding author: robert.harcourt at mq.edu.au

ABSTRACT: Cetacean entanglements in fishing gear cost governments,
fishermen and stakeholders millions of dollars a year, and often result in
serious injury or death of the entangled animals. Entanglements have been
implicated in preventing the recovery of some large whale populations.
Acoustic deterrents on fishing nets are widely used to reduce incidental
captures of dolphins and porpoises, but there is little evidence as to
whether they effectively deter large whales. We tested whether a
low-frequency whale alarm (3 kHz Whale Pinger®, 135 ± 5 db, 5 s emission
interval and 400 ms emission duration) deterred Southern Hemisphere
humpback whales *Megaptera novaeangliae* from approaching a potential
source of entanglement. Northerly migrating humpback whale pods were
tracked by an observer blind to alarm status (on/off) as they passed an
alarm moored in the centre of the peak migration path. Of 137 pods tracked,
82 (60%) passed within the assumed detectable range (500 m) of the alarm,
51/78 (65%) when it was on and 31/59 (52%) when it was off (p = 0.18).
There was no discernible response to the alarm. Whale pods did not differ
in directionality, course heading or dive duration when within detectable
range of the alarm, whether it was on or off, and a number of pods passed
directly over the alarm while it was operational. This suggests that single
alarms as currently configured and attached to a trap or pot line are
unlikely to effectively deter humpback whales from approaching potential
hazards, at least during their northerly migration phase.

KEY WORDS: Fisheries entanglement · Mortality · Bycatch · Acoustic
deterrents · *Megaptera novaeangliae*

The contents page of the issue is available at:



Vanessa Pirotta
Master of Research Candidate
Marine Predator Research Group
Department of Biological Sciences
Macquarie University NSW 2109
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