- Displacement responses of a mysticete, an odontocete, and a phocid seal to construction-related vessel traffic
- Endangered Species Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 21 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Marine construction works often lead to temporary increases in vessel traffic, which, in addition to the construction activity itself, contribute to underwater ambient noise in the affected area and increase the risk of vessel collision for marine mammals. Using a 3 yr data set of cliff-based observations, we investigated whether the presence/absence of minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and grey seals varied with the overall number and type of vessels present during the construction of an underwater gas pipeline through a bay on the northwest coast of Ireland. Results from binary generalised estimation equations showed a positive relationship between the presence of bottlenose dolphins and the overall number of boats, as well as the number of construction vessels. However, the presence of the 2 taxa with higher hearing sensitivity at low frequencies—minke whales and grey seals—was negatively correlated with the total number of boats and the number of utility vessels (as well as the number of fishing boats in the case of minke whales). While bottlenose dolphins may have been attracted to either the vessels per se or high prey concentrations coinciding with construction activities, both minke whales and grey seals appear to have been displaced by high levels of vessel traffic, most likely due to noise disturbance. Careful consideration of mitigation measures, especially for taxa with low-frequency hearing, is therefore essential in the planning phase of offshore construction activities, which should also take local circumstances into account.
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