Changes in the movement and calling behavior of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in response to navy training

Ian N. Durbach*, Catriona M. Harris, Cameron Martin, Tyler A. Helble, E. Elizabeth Henderson, Glenn Ierley, Len Thomas, Stephen W. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

Many marine mammals rely on sound for foraging, maintaining group cohesion, navigation, finding mates, and avoiding predators. These behaviors are potentially disrupted by anthropogenic noise. Behavioral responses to sonar have been observed in a number of baleen whale species but relatively little is known about the responses of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Previous analyses demonstrated a spatial redistribution of localizations derived from passive acoustic detections in response to sonar activity, but the lack of a mechanism for associating localizations prevented discriminating between movement and cessation of calling as possible explanations for this redistribution. Here we extend previous analyses by including an association mechanism, allowing us to differentiate between movement responses and calling responses, and to provide direct evidence of horizontal avoidance responses by individual minke whales to sonar during U.S. Navy training activities. We fitted hidden Markov models to 627 tracks that were reconstructed from 3 years of minke whale (B. acutorostrata) vocalizations recorded before, during, and after naval training events at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. The fitted models were used to identify different movement behaviors and to investigate the effect of sonar activity on these behaviors. Movement was faster and more directed during sonar exposure than in baseline phases. The mean direction of movement differed during sonar exposure, and was consistent with movement away from sonar-producing ships. Animals were also more likely to cease calling during sonar. There was substantial individual variation in response. Our findings add large-sample support to previous demonstrations of horizontal avoidance responses by individual minke whales to sonar in controlled exposure experiments, and demonstrate the complex nature of behavioral responses to sonar activity: some, but not all, whales exhibited behavioral changes, which took the form of horizontal avoidance or ceasing to call.
Original languageEnglish
Article number660122
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Naval sonar
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Behavioural response
  • Animal movement
  • Minke whale

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