Sperm whales have depredated black cod (Anoplopoma fimbria) from demersal longlines in the Gulf of Alaska for decades, but the behavior has recently spread in intensity and geographic coverage. Over a three-year period 11 bioacoustic tags were attached to adult sperm whales off Southeast Alaska during both natural and depredation foraging conditions. Measurements of the animals’ dive profiles and their acoustic behavior under both behavioral modes were examined for statistically significant differences. Two rough categories of depredation are identified: “deep” and “shallow.” “Deep depredating” whales consistently surface within 500 m of a hauling fishing vessel, have maximum dive depths greater than 200 m, and display significantly different acoustic behavior than naturally foraging whales, with shorter inter-click intervals, occasional bouts of high “creak” rates, and fewer dives without creaks. “Shallow depredating” whales conduct dives that are much shorter, shallower, and more acoustically active than both the natural and deep depredating behaviors, with median creak rates three times that of natural levels. These results suggest that depredation efforts might be measured remotely with passive acoustic monitoring at close ranges.
Mathias, D., A.M. Thode, J. Straley, J. Calambokidis, G.S. Schorr, and K. Folkert. 2012. Acoustic and Diving Behavior of Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) During Natural and Depredation Foraging in the Gulf of Alaska. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 132: 518. doi: 10.1121/1.4726005Download PDF
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