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Monitoring fin and blue whales in the Lower St. Lawrence Seaway with onshore seismometers
  • Alexandre Palmer Plourde,
  • Mladen R. Nedimovic
Alexandre Palmer Plourde
Geological Survey of Canada (Atlantic), Geological Survey of Canada (Atlantic)

Corresponding Author:ap.plourde@dal.ca

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Mladen R. Nedimovic
Dalhousie University, Dalhousie University
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The Lower St. Lawrence Seaway (LSLS), in eastern Canada, is an important habitat for several species of endangered baleen whale. As we seek to reduce the hazards that these endangered species face from human activity, there is increasing demand for detailed knowledge of their habitat use. Only a sparse network of hydrophones exists in the LSLS to remotely observe whales. However, there is also a network of onshore seismometers, designed to monitor earthquakes, that have sufficiently high sample rates to record fin and blue whale calls. We present a simple method for detecting band-limited, regularly repeating calls, such as the 20 Hz calls of fin and blue whales, and apply the method to build a catalog of fin and blue whale detections at 14 onshore seismometers across the LSLS, over approximately a four-year period. The resulting catalog contains >600000 fin whale calls and >60000 blue whale calls. Individual calls are rarely detected at more than one seismometer. Fin whale calls recorded onshore appear to travel mainly through solid earth, rather than only entering the earth at the shoreline, and they often have a complex ~2 s sequence of P-like and S-like phases. Onshore seismometers provide a valuable, previously unused source of data for monitoring baleen whales. However, in the LSLS, the current seismometer network cannot provide high-precision whale tracking alone, so a denser deployment of onshore and/or offshore seismometers is required.
Aug 2022Published in Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation volume 8 issue 4 on pages 551-563. 10.1002/rse2.261