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

Sarah E. Mussoline, Denise Risch, Leila T Hatch, Mason T. Weinrich, David N. Wiley, Michael A. Thompson, Peter J. Corkeron, Sofie M. Van Parijs

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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 man-
aging 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 win-
tertime 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 sig-
nificantly 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 demon-
strates 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
JournalEndangered Species Research
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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