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Whale-watch vessel noise levels with applications to whale-watching guidelines and conservation

Arranz, P., de Soto, N.A., Madsen, P.T. and Sprogis, K.R. (2021) Whale-watch vessel noise levels with applications to whale-watching guidelines and conservation. Marine Policy, 134 . Art. 104776.

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The number and size of whale-watching and swim-with-cetacean vessels are increasing worldwide, but the noise impact on targeted species depends on vessel source characteristics, which remain largely unquantified. Here, we report the acoustic characteristics from 13 whale-watching vessels from Australia and Canary Islands. Acoustic recorders were deployed to measure the frequency-weighted sound levels (for low [LF], mid [MF] and high frequency [HF] cetacean hearing types) of motor sailing, catamarans, and motor vessels operating at 4–8 kn representing the slow speed of whale-watch scenarios. The highest estimated source levels (SLs) were recorded from large catamarans with inboard engines (LF = 160 ± 3, MF = 148 ± 2, HF = 146 ± 2 dB re 1 µPa m). The lowest SLs were from smaller motor vessels and particularly by a hybrid vessel powered by electrical outboard engines (LF = 140 ± 3, MF = 136 ± 2, HF = 134 ± 2 dB re 1 µPa m). We demonstrate that at the same speed and distance, different vessels may produce very different received levels to the animals. To reduce disturbance to cetaceans we recommend tourism vessels meet a broadband (0.2–10 kHz) SL limit of <150 dB re 1 µPa (RMS) when within 500 m of cetaceans.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Harry Butler Institute
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
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