High rates of vessel noise disrupt foraging in wild harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)

Danuta Maria Wisniewska*, Mark Johnson, Jonas Teilmann, Ursula Siebert, Anders Galatius, Rune Dietz, Peter Teglberg Madsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Shipping is the dominant marine anthropogenic noise source in the world’s oceans, yet we know little about vessel encounter rates, exposure levels and behavioural reactions for cetaceans in the wild, many of which rely on sound for foraging, communication and social interactions. Here, we used animal-borne acoustic tags to measure vessel noise exposure and foraging efforts in seven harbour porpoises in highly trafficked coastal waters. Tagged porpoises encountered vessel noise 17-89% of the time and occasional high-noise levels coincided with vigorous fluking, bottom diving, interrupted foraging and even cessation of echolocation, leading to significantly fewer prey capture attempts at received levels greater than 96 dB re 1 µPa (16 kHz third-octave). If such exposures occur frequently, porpoises, which have high metabolic requirements, may be unable to compensate energetically with negative long-term fitness consequences. That shipping noise disrupts foraging in the high-frequency-hearing porpoise raises concerns that other toothed whale species may also be affected.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20172314
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume285
Issue number1872
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Behavioural response
  • DTAG
  • Exposure rates
  • Fitness consequences
  • Foraging

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