Beaked whales are diverse and species rich taxa. They spend the vast majority of their time submerged, regularly diving to depths of hundreds to thousands of meters, typically occur in small groups, and behave inconspicuously at the surface. These factors make them extremely difficult to detect using standard visual survey methods. However, recent advancements in acoustic detection capabilities have made passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) a viable alternative. Beaked whales can be discriminated from other odontocetes by the unique characteristics of their echolocation clicks. In 2009 and 2010, PAM methods using towed hydrophone arrays were tested. These methods proved highly effective for real-time detection of beaked whales in the Southern California Bight (SCB) and were subsequently implemented in 2011 to successfully detect and track beaked whales during the ongoing Southern California Behavioral Response Study. The three year field effort has resulted in (1) the successful classification and tracking of Cuvier’s (Ziphius cavirostris), Baird’s (Berardius bairdii), and unidentified Mesoplodon beaked whale species and (2) the identification of areas of previously unknown beaked whale habitat use. Identification of habitat use areas will contribute to a better understanding of the complex relationship between beaked whale distribution, occurrence, and preferred habitat characteristics on a relatively small spatial scale. These findings will also provide information that can be used to promote more effective management and conservation of beaked whales in the SCB, a heavily used Naval operation and training region.
Yack, T.M., J. Barlow, J. Calambokidis, B. Southall, and S. Coates. 2013. Passive Acoustic Monitoring Using a Towed Hydrophone Array Results in Identification of a Previously Unknown Beaked Whale Habitat. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 134(3): 2589. doi: 10.1121/1.4816585Download PDF
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