Subject: Case Study: MM hearing -- Gulf of Maine (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita)
Mon, 19 Jan 1996 14:42:53

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Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 14:30:06 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Williamson <>
Subject: Case Study: MM hearing -- Gulf of Maine (fwd)
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Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 07:50:18 -0800
From: Phil Clapham <>
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: MM hearing -- Gulf of Maine
Following my enquiry, Gene Buck kindly sent me the full text of the article
on marine mammal hearing in the Gulf of Maine, and I post it here for the
interest of others.  It does not agree with my own experience in the region:
more than almost any other feeding area, whales in the Gulf of Maine seem
oblivious to boats unless they pose an imminent threat from collision.  I'd
be interested in the comments of mm bioacousticians. - Phil Clapham
>     AM-ME--Boat Noise-Whales, Bjt,450
>     Noise From Fishing Boats May Damage Hearing Of Whales, Dolphins
>        PORTLAND, Maine (AP)  Noise created by fishing vessels in the
>     Gulf of Maine may be damaging the sensitive hearing of whales and
>     dolphins, a new study by hearing-impaired students has found.
>        The findings suggest that the noise could interfere with marine
>     mammals' ability to navigate, hunt for food and avoid danger.
>        The study was conducted by students from the American School for
>     the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., under the supervision of Peter
>     Scheifele, a marine acoustics specialist at the University of
>     Connecticut's National Undersea Research Center.
>        ``Some of the noise they found would cause some short-term
>     deafness (in humans) after an eight-hour exposure, according to
>     OSHA standards,'' Scheifele said.
>        Scheifele said the study was an important first step toward
>     understanding the effects of low-frequency noise on whales and
>     dolphins.
>        ``The whole problem of noise versus whales is that there's not
>     much written on it,'' Scheifele said, ``and nobody really knows
>     what they live in as the norm, much less what is happening when we
>     put boats into the water. We're at the very, very beginning of
>     this.''
>        Noise pollution in the sea has become a hot new topic in marine
>     research. A controversial global warming experiment in the Pacific
>     that sends blasts of sounds through the sea via underwater
>     loudspeakers was redesigned after critics complained that the noise
>     created by the project might deafen marine mammals.
>        Students in the Gulf of Maine study were participating in the
>     National Undersea Research Center's High School Aquanauts program.
>     Each year the program recruits different schools from around New
>     England to participate in marine research and education programs.
>        After receiving classroom instruction on oceanic acoustics
>     throughout the year, students used hydrophones to measure sounds
>     transmitted underwater on Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary and
>     fishing area in the Gulf of Maine just north of Provincetown, Mass.
>        Students took a census of whales and dolphins they saw there and
>     observed their behavior. They also kept track of the number of
>     fishing vessels in the area and observed their movements.
>        Whales and dolphins disturbed by noise may or may not swim away
>     from an area to avoid the sound, Scheifele said. Humpback whales
>     come to the Gulf of Maine in the summer primarily to feed, and it
>     may not be realistic to expect them to leave their prime feeding
>     grounds, he said.
>        Scheifele and some of his students are now working on a
>     three-year follow-up study, using subarctic beluga whales in
>     Canada's St. Lawrence estuary.
>        Scheifele plans to measure the noise levels from boat traffic
>     that goes through the area during the year and observe the whales'
>     behavioral responses.
Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
P.O. Box 271
La Jolla, CA 92038
tel (619) 546-7176
fax (619) 546-5653