Aquatic Mammals (2018)

DOI: 10.1578/am.44.4.2018.389


Naval sonar signals may affect the behavior of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). The 53C sonar system produces 1,600 ms sonar signals in the 3.5 to 4.1 kHz band, each consisting of a sweep immediately followed by two tones which are separated by a 100 ms silence. Effects of sound pressure level (SPL) and duty cycle on the behavioral responses of two harbor porpoises to these sounds were investigated. Respiration rate, distance to the transducer, swimming speed, and the number of jumps during sound exposure and baseline periods were compared. Harbor porpoises were exposed to 30-min playbacks of 53C sonar sounds at five average received SPLs (Lrecs) with a duty cycle of 2.7%, and at six Lrecs with a duty cycle of 96%, under low ambient noise conditions. They did not respond to the sounds when the duty cycle was 2.7%, even at the maximum Lrec (143 dB re 1 μPa). When the duty cycle was 96%, only Porpoise 06 increased his respiration rate when the Lrec was ≥119 dB re 1 μPa, and he moved away from the transducer only at an Lrec of 143 dB re 1 μPa. At the same Lrec and duty cycle, the effect of 53C sonar sounds on harbor porpoise behavior was weaker than that of 1 to 2 kHz, 6 to 7 kHz, and 25 kHz sonar signals observed in previous studies.