WHOI-Led Report Links Sonar to Whale Strandings

Now, an international team of researchers reports in a paper led by Tyack the first data on how beaked whales respond to naval sonar exercises. Their results suggest that sonar indeed affects the behavior and movement of whales.

Tyack and his colleagues used two complementary methods to investigate behavioral responses of beaked whales to sonar: “an opportunistic approach that monitored whale responses to multi-day naval exercises involving tactical mid-frequency sonars, and an experimental approach using playbacks of simulated sonar and control sounds to whales tagged with a device that records sound, movement, and orientation,” the researchers report in the current issue of the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE

That research team developed experiments to slowly increase the level of sonar at a tagged whale, to stop exposure as soon as the whale started responding, to measure that exposure, and to define the response. The experimental approach used tags to measure acoustic exposure and behavioral reactions of beaked whales to one controlled exposure each of simulated military sonar, killer whale calls, and band-limited noise.

“This suggests that beaked whales are particularly sensitive to sound. Their behavior tended to be disrupted at exposure levels around 140 decibels ( dB ), so they may require a lower threshold than many current regulations that anticipate disruption of behavior around 160 dB, ” said Tyack. “But the observations on the naval range suggest that while sonar can disrupt the behavior of the whales, appropriate monitoring and management can reduce the risk of stranding.” …

Source and more: http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=3622&cid=94289

Report: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0017009

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