ESR 17:17-26 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00411

Seasonal and diel variation in North Atlantic right whale up-calls: implications for management and conservation in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean

Sarah E. Mussoline1,4,*, Denise Risch1, Leila T. Hatch2, Mason T. Weinrich3, David N. Wiley2, Michael A. Thompson2, Peter J. Corkeron1, Sofie M. Van Parijs

1Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
2Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Scituate, Massachusetts 02066, USA
3The Whale Center of New England, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930, USA
4Present address: Biology Department, MS #33, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Redfield 256, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Ship strikes are a major cause of anthropogenic mortality for the endangered North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis. Year-round data on animal presence are critical to managing ship strike mortality. Marine autonomous recording units were deployed throughout the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS, Massachusetts Bay, USA) for 13 mo from January 2006 to February 2007 and on Jeffreys Ledge (JL, Gulf of Maine, USA) for 7 mo from November 2004 to May 2005 to determine whether passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) can improve information on right whale occurrence. Automated detection and manual review were used to determine presence and absence of right whale up-calls. In SBNMS, up-calls were detected year round, except during July and August, and calling rates were highest from January through May, peaking in April. In JL, up-calls occurred throughout all recording months, with the highest numbers from November through February. Up-calls were heard extensively in the wintertime throughout SBNMS and JL, suggesting that these areas are important overwintering grounds for right whales. Additionally, up-calls showed a strong diel trend in both areas, with significantly more calls occurring during twilight than dark and light periods. These data indicate that right whales are present more often and over longer time periods in the western Gulf of Maine than previously thought using conventional visual techniques. Finally, this study demonstrates the utility of PAM in providing a detailed and long-term picture of right whale presence in an area that poses a significant risk of anthropogenic mortality.


KEY WORDS: North Atlantic right whale . Passive acoustic monitoring . Up-calls . Seasonality . Diel variation . Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary . Jeffreys Ledge . Conservation


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Cite this article as: Mussoline SE, Risch D, Hatch LT, Weinrich MT and others (2012) Seasonal and diel variation in North Atlantic right whale up-calls: implications for management and conservation in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Endang Species Res 17:17-26. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00411

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