What does a passing tanker ship or motorboat sound like to orca? How does the sound affect their behaviour? Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are heading out to Puget Sound to try and find out. They are planning to attach underwater microphone suction tags to Pacific Northwest resident orca. Lasting for about 3.5hrs, the tags will record audio and depth measurements whilst the orca are hunting. Correlations can then be looked for between the data collected and vessel traffic, as well as other noise contributors.
“We’re interested in trying to figure out if the noise levels are interfering with the whale’s ability to communicate effectively during foraging and or actually interferes with their foraging.”
A great information sheet looking at using DTAGs to study acoustics and behaviour of Southern resident orca of the Pacific Northwest - biologists are hoping to examine sound exposure, sound use and behaviour:
“We’re interested in trying to figure out if the noise levels [of water craft] are interfering with the whale’s ability to communicate effectively during foraging and or actually interferes with their foraging.”
The DTAG has a variety of sensors including a hydrophone, to record received sound levels at the whale, and accelerometers to record their 3D movements under water. It is attached by suctions cups to the skin of the whale for a few hours before release at a pre-set time. It then floats for recovery.
Here's a video and description of the suction-cup tagging by NOAA to get dive and acoustic data on Southern resident orca of the Pacific Northwest.