Field trials of an acoustic decoy to attract sperm whales away from commercial longline fishing vessels in western Gulf of Alaska
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Field trials of an acoustic decoy to attract sperm whales away from commercial longline fishing vessels in western Gulf of Alaska

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  • Journal Title:
    Fisheries Research
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    In the Gulf of Alaska, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are known to remove sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) from commercial longline fishing gear. This removal, called depredation, is economically costly to fishermen, presents risk of injury or mortality to whales, and could lead to unknown removals during the federal sablefish longline survey that contributes to estimation of the annual fishing quota. In 2013 the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project (SEASWAP) evaluated the efficacy of an acoustic decoy in reducing encounters between sperm whales and longline fishing gear. The aim of the acoustic decoy was to use fishing vessel sounds to attract whales to an area away from the true fishing haul in order to reduce interactions between commercial fishing vessels and whales. A custom playback device that could be remotely activated via a radio modem was incorporated into an anchored buoy system that could be deployed by the vessel during a two-month trip between June and July 2013. Once activated, the decoy broadcasted vessel-hauling noises known to attract whales, while the vessel performed several true hauls at various ranges from the device. Passive acoustic recorders at both the decoy and true set locations were also deployed to evaluate whale presence. Twenty-six hauls were conducted while a decoy was deployed, yielding fourteen sets with whales present while the decoy was functional. A significant relationship was found between the number of whales present at the true fishing haul and the distance of the haul from the decoy (1–14 km range), with the decoy being most effective at ranges greater than 9 km (t = −2.06, df = 12, p = 0.04). The results suggest that acoustic decoys may be a cost-effective means for reducing longlining depredation from sperm and possibly killer whales under certain circumstances.
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    Fisheries Research, 196, 141-150
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    Accepted Manuscript
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