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Short-Term Impact on the Hawaiian Humpback Whale

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During the winter months of each year, Megaptera novaeangliae, the North Pacific Humpback Whale, migrate from Alaska to the islands of Hawaii for the purpose of breeding and calving. Increased boat traffic associated with tourism in this area has heightened public concern for the recovering Humpback Whale population; motorized vessels are known to produce underwater noise that interrupts cetacean ability to communicate, rest, and navigate. The objective of this study was to evaluate the short-term impact of boat traffic on Humpback Whale behavior based on surface level activity and dive time. We surveyed pods of the North Pacific Humpback Whale in Maui, HA for a total of 52 hours during January 2019. Shore-line observations and a theodolite were used to record and map whale behavior in conjunction with boat traffic. We hypothesized whale surface activity would decrease and dive time would increase when boats were within ½ mile of the pod. The average surface level activity of the pods decreased and average dive time increased when boats were within ½ mile of whales compared to when boats were not present. Results of this paper help emphasize the idea that boat traffic may have short term impacts on whale behavior and the need for further research on anthropogenic noise.

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Short-Term Impact on the Hawaiian Humpback Whale

During the winter months of each year, Megaptera novaeangliae, the North Pacific Humpback Whale, migrate from Alaska to the islands of Hawaii for the purpose of breeding and calving. Increased boat traffic associated with tourism in this area has heightened public concern for the recovering Humpback Whale population; motorized vessels are known to produce underwater noise that interrupts cetacean ability to communicate, rest, and navigate. The objective of this study was to evaluate the short-term impact of boat traffic on Humpback Whale behavior based on surface level activity and dive time. We surveyed pods of the North Pacific Humpback Whale in Maui, HA for a total of 52 hours during January 2019. Shore-line observations and a theodolite were used to record and map whale behavior in conjunction with boat traffic. We hypothesized whale surface activity would decrease and dive time would increase when boats were within ½ mile of the pod. The average surface level activity of the pods decreased and average dive time increased when boats were within ½ mile of whales compared to when boats were not present. Results of this paper help emphasize the idea that boat traffic may have short term impacts on whale behavior and the need for further research on anthropogenic noise.