Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

In 2014 a study was initiated off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to examine the spatial use and diving behavior of a number of species of odontocetes, with particular emphasis on Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus).

Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) are distributed world-wide and are the most common cetacean to strand coincident with navy sonars. They are known for their extreme diving capabilities but diet information, fundamental to understanding foraging at depth, is limited from most regions. We report on 11,441 prey items from stomach contents of 16 stranded or bycaught specimens collected from 1976-2016 across the North Pacific. Overall diet was composed of cephalopods, fish and crustaceans, but was dominated by cephalopods.

As awareness of the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals has grown, research has broadened from evaluating physiological responses including injury and mortality to considering effects on behavior and acoustic communication. Most mitigation efforts attempt to minimize injury by enabling animals to move away as noise levels are increased gradually. Recent experiences demonstrate that this approach is inadequate or even counterproductive for small, localized marine mammal populations, for which displacement of animals may itself cause harm.

In 2014 a study was initiated off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to examine the spatial use and diving behavior of a number of species of odontocetes, with particular emphasis on Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus).

Cuvier’s beaked whales make exceptionally long and deep dives to forage on bathypelagic prey. The species is of conservation concern because of strandings which have occurred in association with Navy training exercises employing tactical sonar. We used depth-transmitting satellite tags to study the diving behavior of this species near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and to generate baseline data for a planned behavioral response study in this area. We deployed LIMPET tags on nine adult whales from 2014-2016 and obtained 3,266 hours of data.

Marine mammal diversity, abundance and habitat use data are lacking in the southwestern Pacific state of Guerrero, Mexico. Aggressive behavior from fishing and tourist boats toward marine mammals, exacerbated by the absence of monitoring and enforcement underlies the need for a better understanding of species present. Our intended five-year study aims to document presence/absence of marine mammals, to establish patterns of spatio-temporal habitat use and to identify sensitive marine mammal areas in the interest of improved ecosystem management.

Marine mammal strandings associated with specific mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS) systems have driven much of the awareness, research, and regulatory attention to the effects of noise on these taxa. However, controlled measurements of cetacean responses to known exposures of such sounds have been unavailable.

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