Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (2009)

DOI: 10.1139/f08-186


Bycatches are considered the most serious threat to harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and other small cetaceans worldwide. Pingers are used to reduce bycatch levels, but may also deter porpoises from critical habitats. We investigated the spatial and temporal responses of porpoises to simulated bottom-set nets equipped with periodically operating Dukane NetMark 1000 pingers. Echolocation rates were monitored by porpoise click train detectors (PODs) placed at and around the nets, and a shore-based observation team recorded surfacing positions and movements. Pinger sound significantly reduced the median echolocation encounter rate by 50%–100% at PODs placed up to 500 m and reduced the sighting rate up to 375 m from the simulated net. The average distance of approach increased by 300 m. When pingers were silent after being active for 24 h 50 min, the return time of porpoises was 6 h, in comparison with 2.5 h after pingers had been silent. During the study period of approximately 50 days, habituation was detectable at two of nine PODs. The results indicate that pingers affect porpoises at greater distances than previously observed. This confirms that pingers are an effective bycatch mitigation measure, but alternative solutions should be applied in ecologically important habitats and migration routes. An example is given from the Baltic region.