In May 2017, MWDW were joined by researchers from the Clyde Marine Mammal Project to trial a Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) device – known as a hydrophone – which is towed behind a research vessel to record the high frequency clicks of porpoises and dolphins. The Clyde Project and Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Group both use similar devices, and MWDW aim to work closely with these groups on this project, and to share data. Over the past year we have been working hard to secure funding to purchase a hydrophone and conduct the first ever acoustic surveys of cetaceans in Manx waters. The project is being run by MWDW researcher Bryony Manley, MSc.
We are delighted to have received financial support from the Gough Ritchie Charitable Trust and the Elizabeth Clucus Foundation to develop the project, and we are now glad to be in possession of a Hydrophone array thanks to Jonathon Gordon of the University of St Andrews, who built the device. A trial with a towed hydrophone array was carried out in May 2017 – see here for details.
PAM surveys will offer us flexibility with survey conditions. At the moment we ideally go out when wind speed is less than 5 mph and sea state is less than a force 2. The higher the wind, the choppier the sea and the less chance you have of observing cetaceans. With a hydrophone, we can survey in higher wind speeds, and allow the device to record cetaceans under water, where we can watch from a screen in the cabin, as well as having observers conducting visual surveys. With the PAM data we can estimate abundance, and with a good few years of data we can start working on the first ever abundance estimates of cetaceans in Manx waters.
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