New Paper Concludes that Prolonged Seismic Survey Noise Does Not Displace Harbor Seals

A new paper on responses of harbour porpoises to a seismic survey is available via Open Access here.

 The abstract of this paper states:

“Assessments of the impact of offshore energy developments are  constrained because it is not known whether fine-scale behavioural  responses to noise lead to broader-scale displacement of protected small cetaceans. We used passive acoustic monitoring and digital aerial surveys to study changes in the occurrence of harbour porpoises across a 2000 km2 study area during a commercial two-dimensional seismic survey in the North Sea. Acoustic and visual data provided evidence of group responses to airgun noise from the 470 cu inch array over ranges of 5-10 km, at received peak-to-peak sound pressure levels of 165-172 dB re 1 uPa and sound exposure levels (SELs) of 145-151 dB re 1 m su1. However, animals were typically detected again at affected sites within a few hours, and the level of response declined through the 10 day survey. Overall, acoustic detections decreased significantly during the survey period in the impact area compared with a control area, but this effect was small in relation to natural variation. These results demonstrate that prolonged seismic survey noise did not lead to broader-scale displacement into suboptimal or higher-risk habitats, and suggest that impact assessments should focus on sub-lethal effects resulting from changes in foraging performance of animals within affected sites.”

This paper should be cited as: Thompson, P.M., Brookes, K.L., Graham, I.M., Barton, T.R., Needham, K., Bradbury, G. & Merchant, N.D. (2013) Short-term disturbance by a commercial two-dimensional seismic survey does not lead to long-term displacement of harbour porpoises. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 280 20132001; doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.2001.

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