Blue Planet Marine

Canberra, Australia

Blue Planet Marine

Canberra, Australia
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Dunlop R.A.,University of Queensland | Noad M.J.,University of Queensland | McCauley R.D.,Curtin University Australia | Scott-Hayward L.,University of St. Andrews | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2017

The effect of various anthropogenic sources of noise (e.g. sonar, seismic surveys) on the behaviour of marine mammals is sometimes quantified as a dose-response relationship, where the probability of an animal behaviourally 'responding' (e.g. avoiding the source) increases with 'dose' (or received level of noise). To do this, however, requires a definition of a 'significant' response (avoidance), which can be difficult to quantify. There is also the potential that the animal 'avoids' not only the source of noise but also the vessel operating the source, complicating the relationship. The proximity of the source is an important variable to consider in the response, yet difficult to account for given that received level and proximity are highly correlated. This study used the behavioural response of humpback whales to noise from two different air gun arrays (20 and 140 cubic inch air gun array) to determine whether a dose-response relationship existed. To do this, a measure of avoidance of the source was developed, and the magnitude (rather than probability) of this response was tested against dose. The proximity to the source, and the vessel itself, was included within the one-analysis model. Humpback whales were more likely to avoid the air gun arrays (but not the controls) within 3 km of the source at levels over 140 re. 1 μPa2 s-1, meaning that both the proximity and the received level were important factors and the relationship between dose (received level) and response is not a simple one. © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd | Journal of Experimental Biology.


Carroll E.L.,University of Auckland | Childerhouse S.J.,Blue Planet Marine | Fewster R.M.,University of Auckland | Patenaude N.J.,Collegial International Sainte Anne | And 5 more authors.
Ecological Applications | Year: 2013

Superpopulation capture-recapture models are useful for estimating the abundance of long-lived, migratory species because they are able to account for the fluid nature of annual residency at migratory destinations. Here we extend the superpopulation POPAN model to explicitly account for heterogeneity in capture probability linked to reproductive cycles (POPAN-τ). This extension has potential application to a range of species that have temporally variable life stages (e.g., non-annual breeders such as albatrosses and baleen whales) and results in a significant reduction in bias over the standard POPAN model. We demonstrate the utility of this model in simultaneously estimating abundance and annual population growth rate (λ) in the New Zealand (NZ) southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) from 1995 to 2009. DNA profiles were constructed for the individual identification of more than 700 whales, sampled during two sets of winter expeditions in 1995-1998 and 2006-2009. Due to differences in recapture rates between sexes, only sex-specific models were considered. The POPAN-τ models, which explicitly account for a decrease in capture probability in non-calving years, fit the female data set significantly better than do standard superpopulation models (ΔAIC > 25). The best POPAN-τ model (AIC) gave a superpopulation estimate of 1162 females for 1995-2009 (95% CL 921, 1467) and an estimated annual increase of 5% (95% CL -2%, 13%). The best model (AIC) gave a superpopulation estimate of 1007 males (95% CL 794, 1276) and an estimated annual increase of 7% (95% CL 5%, 9%) for 1995-2009. Combined, the total superpopulation estimate for 1995-2009 was 2169 whales (95% CL 1836, 2563). Simulations suggest that failure to account for the effect of reproductive status on the capture probability would result in a substantial positive bias (+19%) in female abundance estimates. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.


Carroll E.L.,University of Auckland | Carroll E.L.,University of St. Andrews | Fewster R.M.,University of Auckland | Childerhouse S.J.,Blue Planet Marine | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

Juvenile survival and recruitment can be more sensitive to environmental, ecological and anthropogenic factors than adult survival, influencing population-level processes like recruitment and growth rate in long-lived, iteroparous species such as southern right whales. Conventionally, Southern right whales are individually identified using callosity patterns, which do not stabilise until 6-12 months, by which time the whale has left its natal wintering grounds. Here we use DNA profiling of skin biopsy samples to identify individual Southern right whales from year of birth and document their return to the species' primary wintering ground in New Zealand waters, the Subantarctic Auckland Islands. We find evidence of natal fidelity to the New Zealand wintering ground by the recapture of 15 of 57 whales, first sampled in year of birth and available for subsequent recapture, during winter surveys to the Auckland Islands in 1995-1998 and 2006-2009. Four individuals were recaptured at the ages of 9 to 11, including two females first sampled as calves in 1998 and subsequently resampled as cows with calves in 2007. Using these capture-recapture records of known-age individuals, we estimate changes in survival with age using Cormack-Jolly-Seber models. Survival is modelled using discrete age classes and as a continuous function of age. Using a bootstrap method to account for uncertainty in model selection and fitting, we provide the first direct estimate of juvenile survival for this population. Our analyses indicate a high annual apparent survival for juveniles at between 0.87 (standard error (SE) 0.17, to age 1) and 0.95 (SE 0.05: ages 2-8). Individual identification by DNA profiling is an effective method for long-term demographic and genetic monitoring, particularly in animals that change identifiable features as they develop or experience tag loss over time. Copyright © 2016 Carroll et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Carroll E.L.,University of Auckland | Rayment W.J.,University of Otago | Alexander A.M.,Oregon State University | Baker C.S.,Oregon State University | And 7 more authors.
Marine Mammal Science | Year: 2014

Historically, the range of the southern right whale (SRW) included winter calving grounds around the North and South Islands (mainland) of New Zealand (NZ) and in the NZ subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. Due to extensive whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, no SRW was seen around mainland NZ for nearly four decades (1928-1963). Here we present evidence for the regular use of the mainland NZ wintering ground, presumably from a remnant population that persisted in the NZ subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. SRWs have been sighted every year around mainland NZ since 1988, with 125 sightings during the focus of this work: from 2003 to 2010. There were 28 cow-calf pairs sighted around mainland NZ from 2003 to 2010, compared with 11 sightings from 1991 to 2002. Furthermore, two females, identified by DNA profiles, were sighted with calves around mainland at 4 yr intervals: the first evidence of female site fidelity to the mainland NZ calving ground. Individual identification from photographs of natural markings and DNA profiles provided information on within-year movements and residency around the mainland further evidence for exchange between the mainland and subantarctic wintering grounds. Despite these promising signs, the distribution of NZ SRWs remains primarily concentrated in the NZ subantarctic. © 2013 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.


Cato D.H.,University of Sydney | Noad M.J.,University of Queensland | Dunlop R.A.,University of Queensland | McCauley R.D.,Curtin University Australia | And 9 more authors.
Acoustics Australia | Year: 2013

The concern about the effects of the noise of human activities on marine mammals, particularly whales, has led to a substantial amount of research but there is still much that is not understood, particularly in terms of the behavioural responses to noise and the longer term biological consequences of these responses. There are many challenges in conducting experiments that adequately assess behavioural reactions of whales to noise. These include the need to obtain an adequate sample size with the necessary controls and to measure the range of variables likely to affect the observed response. Analysis is also complex. Well designed experiments are complex and logistically difficult, and thus expensive. This paper discusses the challenges involved and how these are being met in a major series of experiments in Australian waters on the response of humpback whales to the noise of seismic airgun arrays. The project is known as BRAHSS (Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback whales to Seismic Surveys) and aims to provide the information that will allow seismic surveys to be conducted efficiently with minimal impact on whales. It also includes a study of the response to ramp-up in sound level which is widely used at the start of operations, but for which there is little information to show that it is effective. BRAHSS also aims to infer the longer term biological significance of the responses from the results and the knowledge of normal behaviour. The results are expected to have relevance to other sources and species.


Carroll E.L.,University of Auckland | Carroll E.L.,University of St. Andrews | Jackson J.A.,British Antarctic Survey | Paton D.,Blue Planet Marine | Smith T.D.,World Whaling History
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Right whales (Eubalaena spp.) were the focus of worldwide whaling activities from the 16th to the 20th century. During the first part of the 19th century, the southern right whale (E. australis) was heavily exploited on whaling grounds around New Zealand (NZ) and east Australia (EA). Here we build upon previous estimates of the total catch of NZ and EA right whales by improving and combining estimates from four different fisheries. Two fisheries have previously been considered: shorebased whaling in bays and ship-based whaling offshore. These were both improved by comparison with primary sources and the American offshore whaling catch record was improved by using a sample of logbooks to produce a more accurate catch record in terms of location and species composition. Two fisheries had not been previously integrated into the NZ and EA catch series: ship-based whaling in bays and whaling in the 20th century. To investigate the previously unaddressed problem of offshore whalers operating in bays, we identified a subset of vessels likely to be operating in bays and read available extant logbooks. This allowed us to estimate the total likely catch from bay-whaling by offshore whalers from the number of vessels seasons and whales killed per season: it ranged from 2,989 to 4,652 whales. The revised total estimate of 53,000 to 58,000 southern right whales killed is a considerable increase on the previous estimate of 26,000, partly because it applies fishery-specific estimates of struck and loss rates. Over 80% of kills were taken between 1830 and 1849, indicating a brief and intensive fishery that resulted in the commercial extinction of southern right whales in NZ and EA in just two decades. This conforms to the global trend of increasingly intense and destructive southern right whale fisheries over time. © 2014 Carroll et al.


Dunlop R.A.,University of Queensland | Noad M.J.,University of Queensland | McCauley R.D.,Curtin University Australia | Kniest E.,University of Newcastle | And 3 more authors.
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2015

'Ramp-up', or 'soft start', is a mitigation measure used in seismic surveys and involves increasing the radiated sound level over 20-40. min. This study compared the behavioural response in migrating humpback whales to the first stages of ramp-up with the response to a 'constant' source, 'controls' (in which the array was towed but not operated) with groups in the absence of the source vessel used as the 'baseline'. Although the behavioural response, in most groups, resulted in an increase in distance from the source (potential avoidance), there was no evidence that either 'ramp-up' or the constant source at a higher level was superior for triggering whales to move away from the source vessel. 'Control' groups also responded suggesting the presence of the source vessel had some effect. However, the majority of groups appeared to avoid the source vessel at distances greater than the radius of most mitigation zones. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


Dunlop R.A.,University of Queensland | Noad M.J.,University of Queensland | McCauley R.D.,Curtin University Australia | Kniest E.,University of Newcastle | And 2 more authors.
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2015

Seismic surveys are widely used for exploration response was found in the control trials as well for oil and gas deposits below the sea floor. Despite as the active trials suggesting a response to the concern they may have an impact on whale behav-source vessel. iour, our knowledge of marine mammal responses is limited. In the first of a series of experiments Key Words: baleen whales, anthropogenic noise, (the last one involving a full seismic array), this behavioural response, seismicstudy tested the response of migrating humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) groups to a Introduction20 cubic inch air gun. Experiments were carried out during the southward migration of humpback The potential behavioural effect of underwater whales along the east coast of Australia. Groups anthropogenic noise on cetacean ecology is of of whales were focally followed from land sta-concern to scientists, industry, government, envi-tions and/or small boats with observations before, ronmental regulators, conservationists, and other during, and after exposure to a vessel towing the stakeholders. If operations in the ocean are to air gun. The source vessel moved either eastwards continue in the way our societies expect, meth-across the migratory flow or northwards into the ods must be found to continue these with mini-migratory flow. In total, there were 18 control trials mum impact on the environment. This, of course, (where the source vessel ran the compressor and requires an understanding of the impacts, how they towed the air gun without it firing; n = 35 whale are caused, and the contribution of the many fac-groups) and 16 active trials (where the air gun was tors that affect the impacts. Behavioural Response firing every 11 s; n = 32 whale groups). The air Studies (BRS) are used to measure behavioural gun source level was 199 dB re 1 μPa2.s (Sound reactions of animals to various stimuli; and in Exposure Level [SEL]) at 1 m, and SELs received the context of the effects of anthropogenic noise by the whales varied from 105 to 156 dB re in the ocean, the stimulus is the underwater noise 1 μ Pa2.s (modal value 128 dB re μPa2.s) for SELs from some human activity such as the air guns at least 10 dB above the background noise (mea-used during seismic exploration. sured as dB re 1 μPa). Other baseline groups were Noise, however, is usually only one factor focal followed when there was no source vessel involved in the behavioural response to human in the area (n = 25). Results suggested that hump-activity. The noise is an indicator of the presence back whale groups responded by decreasing both of the source, but the response may depend on dive time and speed of southwards movement the proximity of the source and the direction that though the response magnitude was not found to it is moving relative to the subject animal. Early be related to the proximity of the source vessel, behavioural response experiments on northbound the received level of the air gun, the tow path (breeding to feeding grounds) migrating gray direction, or the exposure time within the during whales (Eschrichtius robustus) defined a predict-phase. There was no evidence of orientation of the groups towards, or away from, the source vessel in the during phase. Interestingly, this behavioural Seismic surveys are widely used for exploration response was found in the control trials as well for oil and gas deposits below the sea floor. Despite as the active trials suggesting a response to the concern they may have an impact on whale behav-source vessel.


PubMed | University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Queensland, Curtin University Australia and Blue Planet Marine
Type: | Journal: Advances in experimental medicine and biology | Year: 2015

Studying the behavioral response of whales to noise presents numerous challenges. In addition to the characteristics of the noise exposure, many factors may affect the response and these must be measured and accounted for in the analysis. An adequate sample size that includes matching controls is crucial if meaningful results are to be obtained. Field work is thus complicated, logistically difficult, and expensive. This paper discusses some of the challenges and how they are being met in a large-scale multiplatform project in which humpback whales are exposed to the noise of seismic air guns.


PubMed | University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Queensland, Curtin University Australia and Blue Planet Marine
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Marine pollution bulletin | Year: 2016

Ramp-up, or soft start, is a mitigation measure used in seismic surveys and involves increasing the radiated sound level over 20-40 min. This study compared the behavioural response in migrating humpback whales to the first stages of ramp-up with the response to a constant source, controls (in which the array was towed but not operated) with groups in the absence of the source vessel used as the baseline. Although the behavioural response, in most groups, resulted in an increase in distance from the source (potential avoidance), there was no evidence that either ramp-up or the constant source at a higher level was superior for triggering whales to move away from the source vessel. Control groups also responded suggesting the presence of the source vessel had some effect. However, the majority of groups appeared to avoid the source vessel at distances greater than the radius of most mitigation zones.

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