To investigate the potential impacts of naval mine neutralization exercises (MINEX) on odontocete cetaceans, a long-term passive acoustic monitoring study was conducted at a US Navy training range near Virginia Beach, USA. Bottom-moored acoustic recorders were deployed in 2012–2016 near the epicentre of MINEX training activity and were refurbished every 2–4 months. Recordings were analysed for the daily presence/absence of dolphins, and dolphin acoustic activity was quantified in detail for the hours and days before and after 31 MINEX training events. Dolphins occurred in the area year-round, but there was clear seasonal variability, with lower presence during winter months. Dolphins exhibited a behavioural response to underwater detonations. Dolphin acoustic activity near the training location was lower during the hours and days following detonations, suggesting that animals left the area and/or reduced their signalling. Concurrent acoustic monitoring farther away from the training area suggested that the radius of response was between 3 and 6 km. A generalized additive model indicated that the predictors that explained the greatest amount of deviance in the data were the day relative to the training event, the hour of the day and circumstances specific to each training event.
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