With the increased uncertainty introduced through climate change and fishing pressure, having accurate estimates of fish biomass is essential for global ecosystem and economic health. Acoustic surveys are an efficient way to determine population size for pelagic species in the Northeast Atlantic (NEA), but acoustic population estimates still contain uncertainty and are difficult for some species. For example, Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is one of the most valuable fisheries in the NEA and is not monitored acoustically, as mackerel lack the swim bladder that provides the strongest acoustic echo (target strength) at common assessment frequencies. For all pelagic species, and especially for mackerel, behavior is a source of variation in acoustic measurements and therefore in population estimates. Behavior is mediated by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors, such as the environment and the life history of the fish. In turn, behavior affects the density of the shoal and the tilt angle of the fish relative to the survey vessel, affecting their target strength, which affects the biomass estimate. Some fish may also undergo an anti-predator response to survey vessels, changing their behavior in response to the survey. Understanding these behaviors and incorporating them into acoustic stock assessment methods can improve the accuracy of population estimates. Individual-based models (IBM) of fish shoals provide a pathway for incorporating behavior into acoustic methods. IBMs have been used extensively to build theoretical models of fish shoals, but few have been successfully tested in lab or field conditions. As computational power and monitoring technology improve, modeling the collective behavior of pelagic fishes will be possible. Novel, interdisciplinary approaches to data collection and analysis will help translate theoretical IBMs to the fisheries science domain. Beyond acoustic stock assessments, this approach can be used to investigate knowledge gaps in the effects of fisheries-induced evolution and the potential for range shifts under climate change. Further work to synthesize existing models and incorporate field data will help determine how environmental, ecological, physiological, and anthropogenic factors, often affecting both behavior and acoustic surveying, are interconnected. Moving from theoretical models to practical applications will be a valuable tool in tackling the uncertainty that accompanies further fisheries exploitation and warming oceans.
Soundscapes and Acoustics
A wide range of anthropogenic structures exist in the marine environment with the extent of these set to increase as the global offshore renewable energy industry grows. Many of these pose acute risks to marine wildlife; for example, tidal energy generators have the potential to injure or kill seals and small cetaceans through collisions with moving turbine parts. Information on fine scale behaviour of animals close to operational turbines is required to understand the likely impact of these new technologies. There are inherent challenges associated with measuring the underwater movements of marine animals which have, so far, limited data collection. Here, we describe the development and application of a system for monitoring the three-dimensional movements of cetaceans in the immediate vicinity of a subsea structure. The system comprises twelve hydrophones and software for the detection and localisation of vocal marine mammals. We present data demonstrating the systems practical performance during a deployment on an operational tidal turbine between October 2017 and October 2019. Three-dimensional locations of cetaceans were derived from the passive acoustic data using time of arrival differences on each hydrophone. Localisation accuracy was assessed with an artificial sound source at known locations and a refined method of error estimation is presented. Calibration trials show that the system can accurately localise sounds to 2m accuracy within 20m of the turbine but that localisations become highly inaccurate at distances greater than 35m. The system is currently being used to provide data on rates of encounters between cetaceans and the turbine and to provide high resolution tracking data for animals close to the turbine. These data can be used to inform stakeholders and regulators on the likely impact of tidal turbines on cetaceans.
This study presents non-song vocalizations of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from two migratory areas off the Western Australian coast: Geographe Bay and Port Hedland. A total of 220 sounds were identified as non-song sounds in 193 h of recordings reviewed. Of those, 68 were measured and qualitatively classified into 17 groups using their spectral features. One group (HW-02) had a high level of variation in terms of spectral slope. However, further classification using statistical classification methods was not possible because of the small sample size. Non-song sound frequencies varied from 9 Hz to 6 kHz, with the majority of sounds under 200 Hz. The duration of non-song sounds varied between 0.09 and 3.59 s. Overall, the use of spectral features allowed general classification of humpback whale sounds in a low sample size scenario that was not conducive to using quantitative methods. However, for highly variable groups, quantitative statistical classification methods (e.g., random forests) are needed to improve classification accuracy. The identification and accurate classification of a species’ acoustic repertoire is key to effectively monitor population status using acoustic techniques and to better understand the vocal behavior of the species. The results of this study improve the monitoring of humpback whales by standardizing the classification of sounds and including them in the species’ repertoire. The inclusion of non-song sounds in passive acoustic monitoring of humpback whales will add females and calves to the detection counts of otherwise only singing males.
Anthropogenic noise is a known threat to marine mammals. Decades of research have shown that harbor porpoises are particularly sensitive to anthropogenic noise, and geographic displacement is a common impact from noise exposure. Small, localized populations may be particularly vulnerable to impacts associated with displacement, as animals that are excluded from their primary habitat may have reduced foraging success and survival, or be exposed to increased threats of predation or bycatch. Seal bombs are underwater explosives used in purse seine fisheries to deter marine mammals during fishery operations. Pinnipeds are believed to be the primary target for seal bomb use, however there may be indirect impacts on harbor porpoises. Active purse seine fishing using seal bombs in the greater Monterey Bay area may, at times, span the entire range of the Monterey Bay harbor porpoise stock, which may lead to negative impacts for this population. In this contribution, we review anthropogenic noise as a threat to harbor porpoises, with a focus on the potential for impacts from seal bomb noise exposure in the Monterey Bay region.
The radiated noise of a ship is mainly composed of a low-frequency line spectrum and a medium-high frequency broadband continuum spectrum. In the ocean, the low-frequency sound signal decays slowly, so the low-frequency line spectrum of ship radiated noise can be transmitted over long distances. Based on the statistical analysis method, the inherent source characteristics of radiated noise are obtained from the measured data in shallow sea waveguides. Different deep sea sound velocity distribution conditions, such as the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea deep sea, the Norwegian sea surface channel and the polar regions, were selected, and the propagation characteristics of the low-frequency radiation noise field of the ship were simulated at a horizontal distance of 150 km. The effects of different sound velocity distributions on the propagation of low-frequency acoustic signals are obtained. The research results have important practical significance for the utilization of low-frequency radiation noise characteristics of ships in deep sea.
Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is a powerful method to study the occurrence, movement and behavior of echolocating odontocetes (toothed whales) in the wild. However, in areas occupied by more than one species, echolocation clicks need to be classified into species. The present study investigated whether the echolocation clicks produced by small, at-risk, resident sympatric populations of Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in Menai Bay, Zanzibar, East Africa, could be classified to allow species specific monitoring. Underwater sounds of S. plumbea and T. aduncus groups were recorded using a SoundTrap 202HF in January and June-August 2015. Eight acoustic parameters, i.e. -10 dB duration, peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies, and -3 dB, -10 dB and root-mean-squared bandwidth, were used to describe and compare the two species’ echolocation clicks. Statistical analyses showed that S. plumbea clicks had significantly higher peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies compared to T. aduncus, whereas duration and bandwidth parameters were similar for the two species. Random Forest (RF) classifiers were applied to determine parameters that could be used to classify the two species from echolocation clicks and achieved 28.6% and 90.2% correct species classification rates for S. plumbea and T. aduncus, respectively. Both species were classified at a higher rate than expected at random, however the identified classifiers would only be useful for T. aduncus monitoring. The frequency and bandwidth parameters provided most power for species classification. Further study is necessary to identify useful classifiers for S. plumbea. This study represents a first step in acoustic description and classification of S. plumbea and T. aduncus in the western Indian Ocean region, with potential application for future acoustic monitoring of species-specific temporal and spatial occurrence in these sympatric species.
This study investigates the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, Montagu 1821) habitat use in the Portofino marine protected area (NW Italy) and adjacent waters, a core area for the dolphins and a highly touristic area in the Mediterranean Sea. A permanent automated real-time passive acoustic monitoring system, able to detect and track dolphins continuously, was tested in the area within the activities of the Life+ Nature project ARION. The habits of bottlenose dolphins was investigated considering the resident rate inside the area, which quantifies the amount of time dolphins spent in these waters, by means of random forest regression. The dependency of dolphin resident rate was analyzed in relation to four explanatory variables: sea surface temperature, season, time of day, and proximity to the coast. Dolphins spent more time in the area during spring and when sea surface temperature ranged between 15–16°C. Summer resulted the season with lower dolphin residency with significant difference between working day and weekend, in the last the lowest residency was recorded. Main findings provide important information to properly manage the area in order to protect bottlenose dolphins.
Background: Commercial shipping is identified as a major source of anthropogenic underwater noise in several ecologically sensitive areas. Any development project likely to increase marine traffic can thus be required to assess environmental impacts of underwater noise. Therefore, project holders are increasingly engaging in underwater noise modeling relying on ships' underwater noise source levels published in the literature. However, a lack of apparent consensus emerges from the scientific literature as discrepancies up to 30 dB are reported for ships' broadband source levels belonging to the same vessel class and operating under similar conditions. We present a statistical meta-analysis of individual ships' broadband source levels available in the literature so far to identify which factors likely explain these discrepancies.
Methods: We collated ships' source levels from the published literature to construct our dataset. A Generalized Linear Mixed Model was applied to the dataset to statistically assess the contribution of intrinsic (i.e., related to ships' static and dynamic attributes) and extrinsic factors (i.e., related to both the protocol for hydroacoustic data acquisition and the noise data reduction procedure) to the reported broadband source levels.
Results: Amongst intrinsic factors, ships' speed-over-ground (15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001)(15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001), ships' width (12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001)(12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001), and ships' class (−6.07 to 2.08 dB; p-value ∈ [< 0.001 to 0.036]) have shown the strongest correlations with broadband source levels. The hydrophone-to-source closest point of approach (−4.83dB×[CPA1nmi];p−value<0.001)(−4.83 dB ×[CPA1 nmi];p−value < 0.001) and the correction for surface-image reflections (21.73 dB; p-value = 0.002) contribute the most to explain the reported ships' broadband source levels' variability amongst extrinsic factors.
Conclusions: Our meta-analysis confirms a consensus that speed regulation can effectively reduce instantaneous ships' source levels. Neglecting Lloyd's mirror effects through the abuse of non-corrected spreading laws for propagation loss directly leads to a generalized under-estimation of the ships' source levels retrieved from the literature. This could eventually be addressed by a wider adoption of standardized methods of hydrophone-based sound recordings and of data processing to homogenize results and facilitate their interpretation to conduct environmental impact assessment.
Humpback whales rely on acoustic communication to mediate social interactions. The distance to which these social signals propagate from the signaller defines its communication space, and therefore communication network (number of potential receivers). As humpback whales migrate along populated coastlines, they are likely to encounter noise from vessel traffic which will mask their social signals. Since no empirical data exist on baleen whale hearing, the consequences of this are usually assumed, being the modelled reduction in their communication space. Here, the communication space and network of migrating humpback whales was compared in increasing wind-dominated and vessel-dominated noise. Behavioural data on their social interactions were then used to inform these models. In typical wind noise, a signaller's communication space was estimated to extend to 4 km, which agreed with the maximum separation distance between groups that socially interacted. An increase in vessel noise reduced the modelled communication area, along with a significant reduction in group social interactions, probably due to a reduction in their communication network. However, signal masking did not fully explain this change in social behaviour, implying there was also an additional effect of the physical presence of the vessel on signaller and receiver behaviour. Though these observed changes in communication space and social behaviour were likely to be short term and localized, an increase in vessel activity due to tourism and coastal population growth may cause more sustained changes along the humpback whale migration paths.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection of the Antarctic Treaty stipulates that the protection of the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems be fundamentally considered in the planning and conducting of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty area. One of the key pollutants created by human activities in the Antarctic is noise, which is primarily caused by ship traffic (from tourism, fisheries, and research), but also by geophysical research (e.g., seismic surveys) and by research station support activities (including construction). Arguably, amongst the species most vulnerable to noise are marine mammals since they specialize in using sound for communication, navigation and foraging, and therefore have evolved the highest auditory sensitivity among marine organisms. Reported effects of noise on marine mammals in lower-latitude oceans include stress, behavioral changes such as avoidance, auditory masking, hearing threshold shifts, and—in extreme cases—death. Eight mysticete species, 10 odontocete species, and six pinniped species occur south of 60°S (i.e., in the Southern or Antarctic Ocean). For many of these, the Southern Ocean is a key area for foraging and reproduction. Yet, little is known about how these species are affected by noise. We review the current prevalence of anthropogenic noise and the distribution of marine mammals in the Southern Ocean, and the current research gaps that prevent us from accurately assessing noise impacts on Antarctic marine mammals. A questionnaire given to 29 international experts on marine mammals revealed a variety of research needs. Those that received the highest rankings were (1) improved data on abundance and distribution of Antarctic marine mammals, (2) hearing data for Antarctic marine mammals, in particular a mysticete audiogram, and (3) an assessment of the effectiveness of various noise mitigation options. The management need with the highest score was a refinement of noise exposure criteria. Environmental evaluations are a requirement before conducting activities in the Antarctic. Because of a lack of scientific data on impacts, requirements and noise thresholds often vary between countries that conduct these evaluations, leading to different standards across countries. Addressing the identified research needs will help to implement informed and reasonable thresholds for noise production in the Antarctic and help to protect the Antarctic environment.