Over the past decade, researchers have developed a variety of reliable real-time and archival instruments to study sounds made or heard by marine mammals and fish. These new sensors are now being used in research, management and conservation projects around the world with some very important practical results. Among them is improved monitoring of endangered North Atlantic right whales in an effort to reduce ship strikes, a leading cause of their deaths.
"The tools available to acquire and analyze passive acoustic data have undergone a revolutionary change over the last ten years, and have substantially increased our ability to collect acoustic information and use it as a functional management tool," said Sofie Van Parijs, lead author and a bioacoustician at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. "These tools have significantly improved monitoring of North Atlantic right whales and enhanced the efficacy of managing ship traffic to reduce ship strikes of whales through much of the western North Atlantic off the U.S. East Coast."
Van Parijs is one of many researchers whose work is described this month in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Her paper is one of about a dozen in a special theme issue focused on acoustics in marine ecology. Van Parijs, who currently heads the NEFSC's Protected Species Branch, is also a co-author of a related paper on acoustic interference or masking, in which marine animals alter their use of sound as a result of changing background noise.
Van Parijs and her colleagues focus on two types of acoustic sensors, real-time and archival. Real-time sensors are mounted on surface buoys, usually anchored or cabled to the ocean bottom, or deployed as arrays towed from a surface vessel. Archival sensors are affixed on bottom mounted buoys equipped with hydrophones to continuously record ocean sounds for long periods of time, often up to three months, before the sensors
|Contact: Shelley Dawicki|
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center