de Robertis, A. and Handegard, N. O.
It has long been recognized that fish can avoid approaching vessels and that these behaviours can bias fishery surveys. Underwater noise is considered the primary stimulus, and standards for research vessel noise have been established to minimize fish reactions. We review the literature on fish reactions to vessels appearing since these recommendations were made, focusing on acoustic surveys, and compare how fish react to noise-reduced and conventional vessels. Reactions to approaching vessels are variable and difficult to predict. However, the behaviour can bias acoustic abundance measurements, and should be considered when performing acoustic surveys. The few comparisons of acoustic abundance measurements from noise-reduced and conventional vessels are contradictory, but demonstrate that the sound pressure level, on which the noise-reduction criterion is based, is insufficient to explain how fish react to survey vessels. Further research is needed to identify the stimuli fish perceive from approaching vessels and the factors affecting whether fish perceiving these stimuli will react before further recommendations to reduce vessel-avoidance reactions can be made. In the interim, measurement of the biases introduced by fish avoidance reactions during surveys, and timing of surveys when fish are in a less reactive state, may reduce errors introduced by vessel avoidance.
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