Swimming Speed of a Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) During Playbacks of Offshore Pile Driving Sounds

Abstract: The loud sounds produced under water during offshore percussion pile driving for the construction of wind turbines may affect harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Kastelein et al. (2013b) exposed a porpoise in a quiet pool to playbacks of underwater pile driving sound at several mean received sound pressure levels (SPLs; range: 130 to 154 dB re 1 μPa) and suggested that harbor porpoises at sea swim away from offshore pile driving locations (moving tens of km), thus reducing their received SPL. The speed at which they swim both determines the acoustic exposure and impacts the energetic costs of a behavioral response. Therefore, information on swimming speed is important for estimating the potential impact of pile driving sounds on the hearing, the energetics, and the population dynamics of harbor porpoises. The video recordings from the Kastelein et al. (2013b) study were analyzed for swimming speed. During quiet baseline periods, the mean swimming speed of the porpoise was 4.3 km/h, and he swam a mean distance of 2.2 km in 30 min. Even at the lowest SPL tested (130 dB re 1 μPa), his mean swimming speed was significantly greater than during baseline periods. At the highest SPL (154 dB re 1 μPa), his mean swimming speed was 7.1 km/h, and he swam a mean distance of 3.6 km in 30 min. Swimming speed did not decline significantly during the 30-min test periods, and a speed of ~7 km/h appears to be sustainable for harbor porpoises.
Key Words: acoustics, behavior, disturbance, habitat, marine mammals, noise, odontocete, offshore wind farms, temporary threshold shift, wind turbines, swimming speed
Document Type: Research Article
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.44.1.2018.92
Page Numbers: 92-99

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