Investigating the effects of underwater noise from two vessels on the behaviour of short-finned pilot whales

Patricia Arranz, Raquel De la Cruz-Modino, Kate Sprogis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple whale-watching vessels may operate around cetaceans at any one time, and targeted animals may experience underwater noise effects. We hypothesised that the cumulative noise of two vessels with low source levels (SLs) will elicit lower behavioural disturbance in short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) compared to a single vessel with a higher SL. We measured the behaviour of whales during 26 controls (stationary vessel >300 m) and 44 treatments off Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). Treatments consisted of vessel approaches mimicking whale-watch scenarios (distance ∼60 m, speed 1.5 kn). Approaches with two simultaneous vessels, with maximum cumulative mid and low-frequency (0.2–110 kHz) weighted source levels (SLsMF-LF) 137–143 dB, did not affect mother-calf pairs’ resting, nursing, diving, respiration rate or inter-breath interval. However, a louder single vessel approach with twin petrol engines at SLsMF-LF 139–151 dB significantly decreased the proportion of time resting for the mother. The results suggest that if a single or two vessels are present, if the cumulative SL is < 143 dB, the behavioural disturbance on the whales will be negligible. By examining noise effects from multiple vessels on the behaviour of pilot whales, the importance of incorporating a noise threshold into whale-watching guidelines was emphasised.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106574
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date3 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


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