Marine Mammal Sci (2006)

DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2006.00031.x


Pingers on gill nets can reduce bycatch of harbor porpoises. If harbor porpoises habituate to pingers, the effect may be reduced or lost. Two captive harbor porpoises were exposed to three sound types. All sounds were in the frequency band from 100 kHz to 140 kHz, 200 ms long, and presented once per 4 s. The source level was 153 dB re 1 μPa RMS at 1 m. Each session consisted of a 10-min presound, a 5-min sound, and a 10-min postsound period. Behavior was recorded on video and on dataloggers placed on the dorsal fin of one animal. The loggers recorded heart rate, swimming speed, dive duration, and depth. The animals responded most strongly to the initial presentations of a sound. Surface time decreased, the heart rate dropped below the normal bradycardia, and echolocation activity decreased. The reactions of both animals diminished rapidly in the following sessions. Should the waning of responsiveness apply to wild animals, porpoises may adapt to the sounds but still avoid nets, or the bycatch may increase after some time. The success of long-term use of pingers may then depend on the variety of sounds and rates of exposure.