North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) ignore ships but respond to alerting stimuli

Nowacek, D.P., Johnson, M.P. and P. L. Tyack
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Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B
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Risk factors involving ship strikes and North Atlantic right whales were investigated in this study. A multi-sensor digital acoustic recording tag (DTAG) was used to measure the responses of whales to four stimuli: vessel noise, social sounds of conspecifics, and a signal designed to alert whales. Silence was used as the control measure. Testing was conducted in the Bay of Fundy summer foraging region. The DTAGs are non-invasively deployed and record all sounds at a sampling rate of 32 kHz, a Nyquist rate of 16 kHz and records the pitch, roll, heading and depth of the whale at a sampling rate of 46 Hz. Whales showed a strong reaction to the alert signal, swimming strongly to the surface. Whales showed a mild response to social sounds and no response to sounds of an approaching vessel. The response to the alert signal would more likely result in an increased risk of collision and not a decreased risk.

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