The performance of large-aperture hydrophone arrays to detect and localize blue and fin whales’ 1585Hz signature vocalizations under ocean noise conditions was assessed through simulations from a normal mode propagation model combined to noise statistics from 15960h of recordings in Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. The probability density functions of 2482 summer noise level estimates in the call bands were used to attach a probability of detection/masking to the simulated call levels as a function of whale depth and range for typical environmental conditions. Results indicate that call detection was modulated by the calling depth relative to the sound channel axis and by modal constructive and destructive interferences with range. Masking of loud infrasounds could reach 40% at 30km for a receiver at the optimal depth. The 30dB weaker blue whale D-call were subject to severe masking. Mapping the percentages of detection and localization allowed assessing the performance of a six-hydrophone array under mean- and low-noise conditions. This approach is helpful for optimizing hydrophone configuration in implementing passive acoustic monitoring arrays and building their detection function for whale density assessment, as an alternative to or in combination with the traditional undersampling visual methods.

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