A study of the behavioural response of whales to the noise of seismic air guns: Design, methods and progress
Cato, D., Noad, M., Dunlop, R., McCauley, R. et al.
The concern about the effects of the noise of human activities on marine mammals, particularly whales, has led to a substantial amount of research but there is still much that is not understood, particularly in terms of the behavioural responses to noise and the longer term biological consequences of these responses. There are many challenges in conducting experiments that adequately assess behavioural reactions of whales to noise. These include the need to obtain an adequate sample size with the necessary controls and to measure the range of variables likely to affect the observed response. Analysis is also complex. Well designed experiments are complex and logistically difficult, and thus expensive. This paper discusses the challenges involved and how these are being met in a major series of experiments in Australian waters on the response of humpback whales to the noise of seismic Airgun arrays. The project is known as BRAHSS (Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback whales to Seismic Surveys) and aims to provide the information that will allow seismic surveys to be conducted efficiently with minimal impact on whales. It also includes a study of the response to ramp-up in sound level which is widely used at the start of operations, but for which there is little information to show that it is effective. BRAHSS also aims to infer the longer term biological significance of the responses from the results and the knowledge of normal behaviour. The results are expected to have relevance to other sources and species.
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