US Navy


Marine Species Monitoring

Analysis of Acoustic Ecology of North Atlantic Shelf Break Cetaceans and Effects of Anthropogenic Noise Impacts

Introduction & Objectives

Acoustically, the ocean is interconnected and sound travels great distances. Therefore, operational noise in shallow waters may displace coastal animals and drive these species offshore (e.g. North Atlantic right whales during migration), while Navy and/or oil and gas operations may displace resident shelf-break and deep- water animals from important habitats. However, shifts in distribution of animals may also occur due to ecological changes, independent of anthropogenic activities. Teasing apart the drivers of these changes can only be done through a clear, well designed project with a multi-year dataset that enables inference to be drawn before, during and eventually after operations, as well as between sites with low (controls) and high operational activity.

Acoustically sensitive species such as beaked whales, inhabit the North Atlantic shelf break region. While all ESA-listed baleen whales, such as the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), blue (Balaenoptera musculus), and sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) are known to use this area to different extents. NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) have been collaboratively deploying long-term high-frequency acoustic recording package (HARP) passive acoustic monitoring stations at eight sites along the western North Atlantic shelf break since 2015 in coordination with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Likewise, the US Navy has been monitoring the shelf break region at 3 to 4 sites since 2007. Together these combined efforts bring the total to 11 recording sites spanning the U.S. eastern seaboard, from New England to Georgia.

This work is aimed at moving the analytical component forward on a number of key scientific areas including:

1.  Assessing the seasonal and spatial occurrence of baleen whales
2.  Improving automated classification for beaked whales
3.  Assessing effects of anthropogenic noise on beaked whale vocal activity
4.  Assessing the prevalence of seismic survey noise along the eastern seaboard
5.  Novel broad-scale approach to assessing acoustic niche and anthropogenic contributors, and assessing the utility of new acoustic metrics


Technical Approach

Progress & Results