Behavioural responses of western gray whales to a 4-D seismic survey off northeastern Sakhalin Island, Russia

Glenn Gailey*, Olga Sychenko, Trent McDonald, Roberto Racca, Alexander Rutenko, Koen Bröker

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

17 Citaten (Scopus)
270 Downloads (Pure)


A seismic survey was conducted off the northeastern coast of Sakhalin Island, Russia in 2010. The survey area was adjacent to the only known near-shore feeding ground of the Critically Endangered population of western gray whales Eschrichtius robustus in the western Pacific south of the Aleutian Islands. This study examined the effectiveness of efforts to minimize the behavioural responses of the whales to vessel proximity and sound during the survey. Two shore-based behavioural observation teams monitored whale movements and respirations pre-, during and post-seismic survey. Theodolite tracking and focal-animal follow methods were used to collect behavioural data. Mixed linear models were used to examine deviations from 'normal' patterns in 10 movement and 7 respiration response variables in relation to vessel proximity, vessel/ whale relative orientations and 8 received sound metrics to examine if seismic survey sound and/or vessel activity influenced the whales' behaviour. Behavioural state and water depth were the best 'natural' predictors of whale movements and respiration. After considering natural variation, none of the response variables were significantly associated with seismic survey or vessel sounds. A whale's distance from shore and its orientation relative to the closest vessel were found to be significantly influenced by vessel proximity, which suggested some non-sound related disturbance. The lack of evidence that the whales responded to seismic survey sound and vessel traffic by changing either their movement or respiration patterns could indicate that the current mitigation strategy is effective. However, power analyses suggest that our sample sizes were too small to detect subtle to moderate changes in gray whale behaviour.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)53-71
Aantal pagina's19
TijdschriftEndangered Species Research
StatusPublished - 22-mrt-2016

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