YEAR-ROUND MONITORING OF HUMPBACK WHALE (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) CALLS IN THE GULLY MPA AND ADJACENT AREAS
Atlantic humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate seasonally from North Atlantic coastal feeding grounds in the summer to West Indies breeding grounds in the winter where they occur from late December to early April. However, there is some evidence to suggest that not all individuals off eastern Canada migrate south for the winter. The aim of this study is to describe the year-round acoustic occurrence of humpback whales in and around the Gully Marine Protected Area (MPA), a submarine canyon located offshore Nova Scotia, Canada. Near continuous acoustic recordings were collected from the Gully and two nearby areas on the Scotian Slope from October 2012 to September 2014 using bottom-mounted Autonomous Multichannel Acoustic Recorders (AMARs, © JASCO Applied Sciences) deployed at depths of 1400-1900 m. The recorders sampled at a rate of 16 kHz for 13 of every 15 min. Automated humpback whale call detectors were run during post-processing. Preliminary verification of detections revealed that all detections from June through September were false alarms, nominally caused by anthropogenic noise. Files from October to May with more than 10 detections were found to be sufficiently reliable, thus were aurally/visually examined for humpback whale call presence resulting in the manual review of 6,640 files. Humpback whale calls occurred from October to May of both years with calls occurring most regularly in December and January. This indicates that the highly productive region of the Gully MPA may act as a migratory corridor and/or provide alternative wintering grounds for North Atlantic humpback whales.
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