Marine Ecology Progress Series (2015)

DOI: 10.3354/meps11181


Several studies have shown that pingers mitigate porpoise bycatch and thus pinger use is now mandatory in some fisheries—although the long-term effects of pinger exposure on porpoises have not been well studied. The effects of 2 types of pingers (Airmar: 10 kHz tone; SaveWave Black Saver: 30-160 kHz sweep) on the presence of wild harbour porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, were investigated in 2 areas. Pinger spacing within the areas was similar to that used in commercial fisheries. Two scenarios were tested: (1) pingers were periodically activated and deactivated during 6 periods resembling the deployment and recovery of nets in a gillnet fishery, and (2) pingers were active continuously for 28 d. Acoustic dataloggers (T-PODs) were deployed, 4 within the pinger areas and 3 in control areas, and detected porpoise echolocation activity throughout the entire study. During the periodic-exposure scenario, the porpoise detection rate was reduced by 56% when pingers were active. The reduction was larger for the SaveWave pingers (65%) than for the Airmar pingers (40%). There was a tendency for the encounter rate to increase after the first 2-4 periodic exposures, which could indicate gradual habituation. During the continuous-exposure scenario, the detection rate was reduced by 65% throughout the 28 d with no sign of habituation. In the control areas (2.5, 3 and 5 km distant), neither a decrease nor an increase in detection rate was observed, suggesting that porpoises were displaced either <2.5 km or >5 km away. If pingers are used as deterrent devices, the impact of habitat exclusion must therefore be considered concurrently with mitigation of bycatch, especially when regulating fisheries in Marine Protected Areas.