Satellite Tagging on the Navy Range in Andros, Bahamas; 22 April - 10 May 2010
A collaborative project to deploy satellite tags on odontocete cetaceans on and around the US Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC)
in the northern Bahamas took place during April - May 2010. This project aims to monitor the movements of beaked whales and other odontocetes in relation to active sonar exercises,
and particularly tests around multi-ship sonar exercises, on the AUTEC weapons range. This is a collaboration between the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation,
the Protected Resources Division of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (http://swfsc.noaa.gov/prd.aspx) and the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center
(http://www.nuwc.navy.mil/), with tagging funds provided by the NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/). Secondary objectives
include obtaining photo-identification data and biopsy samples.
This effort is the third of its kind, with previous efforts in May and November of 2009, please see the earlier
news story detailing those efforts.
Weather permitted vessel operations during 12 days covering 701 nautical miles (1,297 km), and including 87.3 hours of operation.
The sea state was low enough to allow operations on the AUTEC range during 9 days, during which the field team worked in co-ordination with NUWC's Marine Mammal
Monitoring on Navy Ranges (M3R) team based at Site 1, AUTEC. M3R vectored the vessel to acoustic detections of cetaceans on the range.
Sightings were made of 4 species: Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris, n=4), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus, n=7),
melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra, n=6), and common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, n=5). There were additional brief sightings of
possible dwarf or pygmy sperm whale (Kogia species, n=1) and Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris, n=1). Photo-identifications were obtained
for the majority of individuals in groups encountered and 10 biopsy samples were collected.
There were 5 satellite tag deployments, 2 on sperm whales and 3 on melon-headed whales. One of the tags deployed on a melon-headed whale shattered
upon impact, but the other tags have provided movement and depth (using temperature as a proxy) data for sperm whales and melon-headed whales prior to,
during and after the multi-ship sonar exercise at AUTEC, which ran from the 17th May - 20th May.