Ajurak Bioacoustics Bowhead Whale Research Program

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: wildlife, marine biology, whale

Principal Investigator: McCrimmon, Glen (1)
Licence Number: 14404
Organization: Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited
Licenced Year(s): 2008
Issued: Jul 24, 2008
Project Team: Dr. Chris Clark (Scientist / Project lead investigator, Cornell University)

Objective(s): The primary objectives of this research are: 1) to test the feasibility of using bioacoustic technology to collect baseline data on Bowhead whale utilization of the Ajurak EL and a control site(s) in the Canadian Beaufort; 2) to evaluate cost-effectiveness, statistical robustness, and safety benefits of this approach versus additional or alternative approaches; 3) to evaluate the utility of the data set to understand anthropogenic impact on Bowhead whale utilization of the given area.

Project Description: This licence was issued for scientific research application #872.

The primary objectives of this research are: 1) to test the feasibility of using bioacoustic technology to collect baseline data on Bowhead whale utilization of the Ajurak EL and a control site(s) in the Canadian Beaufort; 2) to evaluate cost-effectiveness, statistical robustness, and safety benefits of this approach versus additional or alternative approaches; 3) to evaluate the utility of the data set to understand anthropogenic impact on Bowhead whale utilization of the given area.

The Ajurak array would consist of eight Marine Autonomous Recording Units (Pop-ups) that will be secured to the seabed with three bags of gravel per unit. Each bag will contain 33 pounds of pea gravel. There will also be two other deployments of four pop-ups at control location(s). These locations will be selected on best available information including discussion with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and logistical considerations. These buoys will be placed on the seabed via overboard deployment using a crane. The buoys will remain on the seabed until the end of the open water season at which time they will be recovered. The pea gravel bags are biodegradable and will remain on the seabed. Once retrieved, the buoys will then be transported back to Cornell University where the data will be downloaded and analyzed.

The data collected by the buoys include: 1) basic acoustic information on Bowhead calling during traveling and feeding; 2) simple qualitative presence/absence information on calling Bowhead whales at a given location; 3) quantitative estimate of the amount of whales observed calling within a given area; 4) general overview of acoustic background for a range of frequencies or any given selected bandwidth. In some instances, it may be possible to track individual whales to understand whether whales are moving through or staying in one general location.
The analyses of the data will also provide significant insight into the feasibility of this technology to monitor Bowhead whales in the Canadian Beaufort and, when coupled with aerial survey and other available data, should significantly improve the baseline understanding of temporal and spatial variation of Bowhead whale distribution in locations that are monitored.

Information will be communicated to the communities during the ongoing community consultations associated with the Ajurak 3D seismic program.

Fieldwork will be conducted from August 01 to October 31, 2008 north of Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, near Herschel Island and at the EL 446 (Ajurak) lease site, North of the Mackenzie Delta, in the Northwest Territories.