Eight aerial surveys were flown north of the Hawaiian island of Kauai during 2001 when the North Pacific Acoustic Laboratory (NPAL) source was not transmitting, and during 2002 and 2003 when it was. All surveys were performed during the period of peak residency of humpback whales (Feb–Mar). During 2002 and 2003, surveys commenced immediately upon cessation of a 24-h cycle of transmissions. Numbers and distribution of whales observed within 40 km of the NPAL source during 2001 (source off) were compared with those observed during 2002 and 2003 (source on). A total of 75 sightings was noted during 2001, as compared with 81 and 55 during 2002 and 2003, respectively. Differences in sighting rates (sightings/km) across years were not statistically significant. Assessment of distributional changes relied upon comparisons of three measures: (a) location depths; (b) distance from the NPAL source; and (c) distance offshore. None of the distributional comparisons revealed statistically significant differences across years. Several possible interpretations are examined: (a) whales have habituated to the NPAL signal; (b) insufficient statistical power exists in the present design to detect any effects; and (c) the effects are short-lived and become undetectable shortly after the cessation of transmissions.

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