Marine mammals and the impacts of anthropogenic noise: Considerations for the design of large acoustic behavioral response studies such as BRAHSS

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2016

Proceedings of Acoustics

Sound travels with greater efficiency in water than does light, which is quickly absorbed and scattered. As a consequence, a wide variety of marine taxa use sound for communication, foraging and generally sensing their environment. Since the 1970s there has been increasing concern about the potential impacts of underwater anthropogenic noise on marine animals. Sources range from short-term coastal ones such as pile driving, to those which contribute long-term, sustained increases in ambient noise, such as shipping. Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are a group of marine animals thought to be at particular risk to impacts from anthropogenic noise. One type of study that has been used to determine the short-term impacts of noise on various taxa is the Behavioural Response Study (BRS) where animals are exposed to a noise and their behavioural responses are measured. While BRS are relatively straightforward for captive animals, most species of cetaceans are not kept in captivity and experiments with adequate levels of control are difficult. One such study, however, is the Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback whales to Seismic Surveys (BRAHSS), which commenced in 2010. Migrating humpback whales were exposed to high level, impulsive sounds from arrays of seismic airguns off the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, and off Dongara in Western Australia. The airguns, from a single 20 in3 airgun to an array of 3130 in3 , were towed behind a source vessel while whales were tracked and their behaviours observed from small boats and land stations. The success of the project required the accurate estimation of the received levels of the source vessel noise and airgun noise, as well as careful measurement and interpretation of behavioural data. This large study is an example of the need for careful study design and collaboration between experts in several fields including underwater acoustics and animal behaviour.

Link To Publication

Similar Research

Influences of man-made noise and other human actions on cetacean behaviour

Pay-walled Journal Article 1995

Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology

Behavioral reactions of cetaceans to man-made noises are highly variable, ranging from attraction (e.g. bow riding by dolphins) or no response through short-term changes in behaviour...
Read More

A Summary of Existing and Future Potential Treatments for Reducing Underwater Sounds from Oil and Gas Industry Activities

Pay-walled Conference 2007


This paper summarizes the efforts undertaken by the author to identify existing and future potential methods to reduce underwater sound levels created by nearly all oil...
Read More

Influence of seismic surveys on western gray whales off Sakhalin Island, Russia in 2001

Open Access Report 2002

Publications, Agencies and Staff of the U.S. Department of Commerce

Western gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) aggregate off the northeastern coast of Sakhalin Island, Russia during summer-autumn to feed on benthic and near-benthic prey. During summer 2001,...
Read More

Broadband spectra of seismic survey air-gun emissions, with reference to dolphin auditory thresholds

Pay-walled Journal Article 1998

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Acoustic emissions from a 2120 cubic in. air-gun array were recorded through a towed hydrophone assembly during an oil industry 2-D seismic survey off the West...
Read More

Effects of seismic energy releases on the survival and development of zoeal larvae of dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

Pay-walled Journal Article 1994

Marine Environmental Research

In blind, controlled field experiments, early Stage II zoeae of Dungeness crab (Cancer magister DANA) were exposed to sounds from single discharges of a 13·8-litre array...
Read More

Low-frequency whale and seismic airgun sounds recorded in the mid-Atlantic Ocean

Pay-walled Journal Article 2004

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Beginning in February 1999, an array of six autonomous hydrophones was moored near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (35°N–15°N, 50°W–33°W). Two years of data were reviewed for whale...
Read More

Quantitative measures of air-gun pulses recorded on sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) using acoustic tags during controlled exposure experiments

Pay-walled Journal Article 2006

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

The widespread use of powerful, low-frequency air-gun pulses for seismic seabed exploration has raised concern about their potential negative effects on marine wildlife. Here, we quantify...
Read More

Criteria and Thresholds of U.S. Navy Acoustic and Explosive Effects Analysis.

Open Access Report 2012

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Systems Centre Pacific

Sounds produced from naval activities can be divided into seven categories: (1) Sonars and other active acoustic sources; (2) Explosive detonations; (3) Ship noise; (4) Aircrafts...
Read More

A brief overview of seismic air-gun arrays.

Open Access Journal Article 2000

The Leading Edge

This article summarizes salient points one must know about seismic air-gun arrays to discuss seriously how they might affect marine life. It is by no means...
Read More

Short-term disturbance by a commercial two-dimensional seismic survey does not lead to long-term displacement of harbour porpoises

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2013

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Assessments of the impact of offshore energy developments are constrained because it is not known whether fine-scale behavioural responses to noise lead to broader-scale displacement of...
Read More