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Status and future of research on the behavioural responses of marine mammals to U.S. Navy sonar

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A review of the status and future of research into behavioral responses of marine mammals to naval sonar exposure was undertaken to evaluate the return on investment of current US Navy funded programs, identify the data needs and the contributions of current research programs to meeting data needs, and determine the ability to meet outstanding data needs given the current state of technology.
As part of this review, a workshop was held from 21-22 April 2015 in Monterey, California. Workshop attendees were key representatives of Navy-funded behavioral response studies, as well as three external reviewers who were selected because of their expertise in animal behavior and behavioral responses to anthropogenic stimuli in the aquatic and terrestrial environments. Prior to the workshop, a questionnaire was circulated to canvass the opinions of members of the scientific community (primarily workshop attendees exclusive of external reviewers) on each of the research approaches taken to address this topic. The workshop was then structured around the questionnaire and responses received, via a series of discussion sessions. Afterwards, each research approach was evaluated independently by the external reviewers. This report presents a synthesis of the evaluations and recommendations of the external reviewers on current and future behavioral response research relevant to naval sonar.
All reviewers agreed that excellent progress has been made on this topic and that each of the research approaches has contributed to our understanding of cetacean responses to naval sonar. The report includes specific comments and recommendations of the reviewers relevant to each approach, but also includes suggestions for priority species and a comprehensive list of recommendations for the future of BRS research in general (Tables 1 and 2). In summary it was recommended that BRS research be continued and extended to increase sample sizes and experimental replication, and temporal duration and spatial scale including more research in areas where the animals are presumably more naïve than on the naval ranges. It was noted that future investigations would benefit from combining experimentation and observation to enable linkage of short-term behavioral response to long-term fitness consequences of repeated exposure. Beaked whales were the species group ranked highest in terms of research priority. The importance of baseline studies and longer-term monitoring of animals before and after exposure is emphasized throughout.


Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
Number of pages74
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameCREEM Technical Report

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