ESR 22:125-143 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00538

Using drifting passive echolocation loggers to study harbour porpoises in tidal-stream habitats 

Ben Wilson*, Steven Benjamins, Jim Elliott

Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban, Argyll and Bute PA37 1QA, UK

ABSTRACT: Moored passive acoustic detectors (e.g. C-PODs) are widely used to study harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena distribution and relative abundance, but their use in tidal-stream habitats is complicated by the need for retrievable flow-resistant seabed fixings and the occurrence of flow-induced noise in the resultant data. In this study, we explored the use of a new method aimed at tidal-stream habitats, which are of increasing interest for marine renewable energy generation. Porpoise detectors (C-PODs) were attached to multiple drifters and repeatedly set adrift at a tidal-stream site in western Scotland during May 2010 and August 2011. Porpoise vocalisations were successfully detected under varying tidal conditions during approximately 63 h of drifting. Harbour porpoise distribution, as determined by the drifting detectors, was similar to that found using the traditional, yet more logistically intensive, visual and acoustic boat-based surveys and to an extent that found by moored C-PODs. Drifting detectors also mapped tidally driven spatiotemporal variability in ambient noise levels which could influence porpoise detection. In summary, drifters equipped with passive acoustic detectors offer a new, rapid and inexpensive tool for investigating porpoise occurrence and behaviour in tidal-stream habitats, and should be considered as part of a comprehensive marine mammal monitoring approach of these energetic environments in the context of marine renewable energy development and other industries.


KEY WORDS: Phocoena phocoena · Tidal stream · Marine renewable energy · Survey · Methodology · Drifter


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Cite this article as: Wilson B, Benjamins S, Elliott J (2013) Using drifting passive echolocation loggers to study harbour porpoises in tidal-stream habitats . Endang Species Res 22:125-143. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00538

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