[MARMAM] New Paper - Sperm Whale PCOD

Nick Farmer - NOAA Federal nick.farmer at noaa.gov
Tue Sep 18 06:09:30 PDT 2018

 Dear colleagues,

I'm pleased to announce the publication of a new manuscript:

Farmer NA, Baker K, Zeddies DG, Denes SL, Noren DP, Garrison LP, Machernis
A, Fougéres EM, Zykov M (2018) *Population consequences of disturbance by
offshore oil and gas activity for endangered sperm whales (Physeter
macrocephalus). *Biological Conservation, 227:189-204.


Sperm whale (*Physeter macrocephalus*) populations are still recovering
from massive population declines
 associated with commercial whaling operations. The species continues to
face a suite of contemporary threats, including pollution, ship strikes,
 interactions, habitat loss
 and degradation, oil spills
and anthropogenic noise. The sperm whale stock in the northern Gulf of
Mexico was exposed to oil from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill and is
exposed to high levels of anthropogenic noises generated by geological and
geophysical (G&G) surveys for hydrocarbon
 deposits. Population impacts from oil and gas activities were predicted
from models that incorporated two stressors: (i) oil exposure from DWH and
(ii) noise from G&G surveys. Oil exposure was projected to reduce survival
and reproductive success
causing a mean stock decline of 26% by 2025. Additionally, exposure to
underwater noise can adversely impact whale hearing, communication,
foraging efficiency, and disturb essential behaviors. Exposures to G&G
survey noise were determined by simulating individual movements through
three-dimensional sound fields generated by different survey methods
Behavioral disturbance was evaluated as reduced foraging opportunities
under four dose-response functions. Bioenergetic
 models tracked the depletion of reserves in blubber, muscle, and viscera
All simulations suggested significant reductions in relative fitness of
reproductive females were a likely consequence of persistent disturbances to
 foraging behaviors
Under a 160 dB SPL unweighted dose-response function, up to 4.4 ± 0.3% of
the stock may reach terminal starvation due to behavioral disturbance
associated with future G&G surveys, leading to abortions, calf abandonment,
and up to 25% greater stock declines beyond those predicted from DWH oil
exposure. Uncertainty in our results emphasizes a need for further
controlled exposure experiments to generate behavioral disturbance
dose-response curves and detailed evaluation of individual resilience
following disturbance events. Given our focus on a limited suite of threats
and need for field verification of these modeled impacts, precautionary
management application of our results is recommended for this endangered


The companion manuscript published in MEPS earlier this year:

Farmer NA, Noren DP, Fougeres EM, Machernis A, Baker K (2018) *Resilience
of endangered sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) to foraging disturbance
in the Gulf of Mexico, USA: A bioenergetics approach. *Marine Ecology
Progress Series, 589:241-261.

Best regards,


*Nicholas A. Farmer, Ph.D.*
Chief, Species Conservation
Protected Resources Division
NOAA Fisheries <http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov>, Southeast Regional Office
263 13th Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
*727.551.5759  **nick.farmer at noaa.gov <nick.farmer at noaa.gov>*
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