Shipping is increasing in Arctic regions, exposing marine mammals to increased underwater noise. Noise analyses often use unweighted broadband sound pressure levels (SPL) to assess noise impacts, but this does not account for the animals' hearing abilities at different frequencies. In 2018 and 2019, noise levels were recorded at five and three sites, respectively, along a shipping route in an inlet of Northern Baffin Island, Canada. Broadband SPLs (10 Hz–25 kHz), unweighted and with auditory weighing functions from three marine mammal groups, were compared between times ore carriers (travelling < 9 knots) were present or absent. Clearly audible distances of shipping noise and exposure durations were estimated for each weighting function relative to vessel direction, orientation, and year. Auditory weighting functions had significant effects on the potential perception of shipping noise. Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) experienced similar SPLs to unweighted levels. Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) and ringed seals (Pusa hispida) experienced lower SPLs. Narwhals were unlikely to clearly perceive shipping noise unless ships were in close proximity (<3 km) and ambient noise levels were low. Detectability propagation models of presumed noise exposure from shipping must be based on the hearing sensitivities of each species group when assessing noise impacts on marine mammals.
Assessing potential perception of shipping noise by marine mammals in an arctic inleta)
Samuel O. Sweeney, John M. Terhune, Héloïse Frouin-Mouy, Philippe A. Rouget; Assessing potential perception of shipping noise by marine mammals in an arctic inlet. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 April 2022; 151 (4): 2310–2325. https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0009956
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