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Influence of vibroseismic sound waves on the behaviour of large cetaceans

Project data

Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr Ursula Siebert
Scientific work: Dr. Joseph Schnitzler
Project term: August 2016 - February 2021
Sponsorship: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Fkz. 3715552990
Cooperation partner: Scientists through the administration of the University of Iceland, Reykjavik
Dr. T. Akamatsu, Fisheries Research Agency, Japan
Prof. M. Wahlberg, University of Southern Denmark
Dr. K. Lucke, Curtain University, Australia
M. Villum, Denmark
Dr. Marianne Rasmussen, University Iceland

Project description


Aim of the project is to study the impact of synthetic generated marine vibrator (MV) signals on baleen whales. The Arctic area is under constant change from anthropogenic utilisation and climatic alterations. These alterations have implications for the animal living in the area. Seismic airgun array explorations and other oil exploration activities are predicted to increase around Iceland in the near future.

The field work will be conducted in Northeast Iceland off the town Husavik. Here many species of baleen whales are found regularly throughout the summer months in Skjalfandi bay. The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the iconic cetacean off Husavik. Other baleen whales in the area will also be used as target species, such as humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) or minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). All species found off Husavik are also present in Antarctica. Thus, studies of the impact of sound on whales off Husavik are also relevant for Antarctic environmental issues.

The reactions of several baleen whale species on synthetic generated marine vibrator (MV) signals, will be examined on their feeding grounds. The baleen whales will be tagged using acoustic tags. Low frequency sound will be projected via an underwater loud speaker (Argotec sound source). These tags will be able to record sound levels at the animal, vocalization as well as fine scale variations of movements and environmental parameter. By these techniques we will be able to compare swim direction, swim speed, dive profile, behaviour patterns and vocalization before and after sound emission. At the same time, visual observations will be conducted and any behavioural changes will be noticed.

Contact person

Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum


Dr. Joseph Schnitzler


Tel.: +49 511 856-8155
Fax.: +49 511 856-8181

E-Mail schreiben

Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8155
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