Responses of Bottlenose Dolphins to Construction and Demolition of Underwater Structures

Open Access Report 2006

Mote Marine Laboratory

Of all of the anthropogenic noise sources in the marine environment, construction and demolition noise and their effects have received perhaps the least attention, and yet they are commonplace activities in many offshore and coastal waters. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, thousands of oil production platforms have been constructed since the mid 1900′ s, and more than 100 of the older rigs are being removed each year (Klima et aI. , 1988). Coastal development involves the construction of bridges, causeways, piers, and other structures at the water’s edge. Further development leads to the replacement of existing structures and removal of these older structures. These activities occur within the ranges of a variety of marine mammals, but little work has been done to evaluate their impacts on the animals. Though the precautionary principle would dictate otherwise, marine mammals are given little regulatory protection from potential adverse impacts from construction/demolition activities. There are currently no provisions under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 requiring review and permitting of coastal construction or demolition projects. Evidence indicates that construction and similar activities, such as drilling, impact marine mammals in several ways. Early work with bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) indicates that they avoid areas of heavy industrial activity. Richardson et aI. (1985) examined distribution patterns of whales exposed to oil and gas exploration and production in the Beaufort Sea relative to historical records, and noted shifts in habitat usage. In another study, bowhead whales were distributed farther from a drilling rig than they would be under a random scenario (Schick and Urban 2000). At a construction site in waters off western Hong Kong, groups of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) doubled their swim speed during periods of active pile driving, however, abundance estimates did not change significantly (Wiirsig et aI. 2000). Todd et al. (1996) examined the distribution, resighting rate, and residency of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Newfoundland waters before, during, and after exposure to underwater explosions and did not notice marked behavioral reactions to the detonations. Importantly though, the rate of entrapment in acoustically enhanced fishing nets increased at the onset of underwater drilling activity and sequences of explosions, suggesting a decline in orientation ability. Finneran et al. (2000) measured the auditory and behavioral responses of two dolphins and a beluga whale to simulated underwater explosions. None of the animals showed threshold shifts to even the loudest stimulus (500 kg explosive at 1.7 km range), but all showed behavioral responses during the experiment (Finneran et al. 2000). In Sarasota Bay, Florida, the construction of a large fixed-span bridge and subsequent demolition of the existing drawbridge allowed us the opportunity to investigate the potential effects of marine building on coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). In the absence of data clearly indicating no jeopardy, or data clearly showing effects to distance from the activity, it is important for biologists and regulatory agencies to develop a better understanding of the potential adverse effects of such wide-scale activities on these animals. One approach would be to follow the model of Richardson et al. (1985), taking advantage of opportunistic “experiments” to examine the distribution and behavior of dolphins before, during, and after construction or demolition activities. Extensive long-term databases exist that can quantitatively define dolphins’ patterns of habitat usage in Sarasota Bay before construction (Scott et al. 1990; Wells 1991, 2003), and can be used for comparisons with similar data collected during and after demolition. Photographic identification surveys for dolphins have been conducted for two weeks each month through these waters for the last decade. We continued these surveys and intensified data collection efforts relative to the bridge project schedule, and related behavior and distribution patterns to the noise generated by the construction and demolition activities. Research Objectives To develop a better understanding of the potential effects of bridge construction and demolition on bottlenose dolphins, in order to aid regulatory agencies in protecting these animals by: 1) documenting distributions of dolphins relative to an area of marine construction or demolition and comparing distributions to historical distributions; 2) describing sound levels of construction/demolition; 3) during the acute (explosive) phase, relating dolphin behavior to the explosion and associated sound levels at the animals.

Link To Publication

Similar Research

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

Pay-walled Conference 2007

OCEANS 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

Likely sensitivity of bottlenose dolphins to pile-driving noise

Pay-walled Journal Article 2006

Water and Environment Journal

Pile driver-generated noise has the potential to affect dolphin populations adversely as it is detectable up to 40 km from the source. At 9 kHz, this...
Read More

Tolerance by ringed seals (Phoca hispida) to impact pipe-driving and construction sounds at an oil production island

Pay-walled Journal Article 2004

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

During June and July 2000, impact pipe-driving sounds at Northstar Island (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska) were recorded underwater and in air at distances 63–3000 m from the...
Read More

Effects of underwater noise on auditory sensitivity of a cyprinid fish

Pay-walled Journal Article 2001

Hearing Research

The ability of a fish to interpret acoustic information in its environment is crucial for its survival. Thus, it is important to understand how underwater noise...
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

Seal monitoring and evaluation for the Gemini offshore windpark: T-construction

Open Access Report 2016

T-construction

1. Gemini offshore windfarm is located 55 km north of the island of Schiermonnikoog. The construction works for the 150 wind turbines and electrical infrastructure were...
Read More

Ambient Underwater Noise Levels at Norra Midsjöbanken during Construction of the Nord Stream Pipeline.

Open Access Journal Article 2012

Nord Stream

Norra Midsjöbanken is a Natura 2000 area situated approximately 50 km east of the southern tip of Öland island in the Swedish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)....
Read More

Pressure pulse characteristics of deep explosions as functions of depth and range.

Open Access Report 1967

Naval Ordnance Laboratory

Thirty-eight TNT ant 18 HBX-3 charges weighing one, eight, and fifty pounds were fired at depths betweeen 500 and 14,000 ft; pressure-time data were measured directly...
Read More
Keywords: Depth, Explosion, Pressure

Agreement in Principal for Interim Criteria for Injury to Fish from Pile Driving Activities.

Open Access Meeting documents, Notices 2008

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A letter to discuss the agreement of interim criteria for injury to fish from pile driving activities....
Read More
Keywords: Fish, Injury, Pile driving

On a hybrid model for the prediction of pile driving noise from offshore wind farms.

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2014

Journal of the European Acoustical Association

Due to the massive, worldwide increase in the number of constructed offshore wind farms, the ecological impact of construction sites has become an important issue. Hereby,...
Read More