The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (1999)

DOI: 10.1121/1.426951


Two echolocation experiments are described. They were conducted on the same harbor porpoise housed in a sea pen, one year apart at Neeltje Jans, The Netherlands. The aims were to determine the target detection ability of an echolocating harbor porpoise, with the ultimate goal to predict the distance at which harbor porpoises can detect fishing nets. In experiment 1, the maximum distance at which the 3-year-old porpoise could detect a 7.62-cm diameter water-filled stainless-steel sphere by echolocation was determined psychophysically. The 50%-correct detection threshold was reached when the sphere was at a distance of 26 m from the porpoise’s rostrum. In experiment 2, conducted a year later, the maximum detection distance for a 5.08-cm water-filled stainless-steel sphere was 15.9 m. The target strengths of both targets were measured using simulated harbor porpoise echolocation signals and the results, coupled with transmission-loss calculations, indicated that the echo levels received by the porpoise with the targets at the threshold ranges in the two experiments were only 1.3 dB apart. Together with information on the target strengths of various fishing nets, the results of the present study can be used to predict the distance at which the nets can be detected by harbor porpoises.