A single-hydrophone ocean glider was deployed within a cabled hydrophone array to demonstrate a framework for estimating population density of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) from a passive acoustic glider. The array was used to estimate tracks of acoustically active whales. These tracks became detection trials to model the detection function for glider-recorded 360-s windows containing fin whale 20-Hz pulses using a generalized additive model. Detection probability was dependent on both horizontal distance and low-frequency glider flow noise. At the median 40-Hz spectral level of 97 dB re 1 μPa2/Hz, detection probability was near one at horizontal distance zero with an effective detection radius of 17.1 km [coefficient of variation (CV) = 0.13]. Using estimates of acoustic availability and acoustically active group size from tagged and tracked fin whales, respectively, density of fin whales was estimated as 1.8 whales per 1000 km2 (CV = 0.55). A plot sampling density estimate for the same area and time, estimated from array data alone, was 1.3 whales per 1000 km2 (CV = 0.51). While the presented density estimates are from a small demonstration experiment and should be used with caution, the framework presented here advances our understanding of the potential use of gliders for cetacean density estimation.

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