Temporal and spatial distributions of delphinid species in Massachusetts Bay (USA) using passive acoustics from ocean gliders uri icon


  • Knowledge about marine mammal habitat use is necessary for informing ecosystem-based management and mitigating human impacts. Massachusetts Bay is an important marine mammal foraging area in the Gulf of Maine and an area of substantial human activity, but delphinid habitat use is poorly understood. The goals of this work were to (1) document temporal and spatial occurrence of delphinid species in Massachusetts Bay using passive acoustic monitoring from ocean gliders and (2) explore the potential influences of environmental conditions on delphinid distributions. Gliders were deployed in late fall and early winter of 2014 and 2015-2016 and were equipped with a digital acoustic recorder and conductivity-temperature-depth instrument. Gliders surveyed an area of approximately 1000 km2. Delphinid whistles were detected on 93 of 128 (73%) deployment days. Animals were detected more often at night. Presence was consistent over 2 years, although detection rates showed annual and monthly variability. Spatial distribution differed between years, but most detections occurred close to Stellwagen Bank. Visual assessment of spectrograms suggests the presence of 2 species, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and common dolphins. The reoccurrence of 2 probable signature whistles over several weeks and consecutive winter seasons suggests prolonged occupancy during winter and possible annual site fidelity. These data show a consistent and frequent presence of delphinids near a known marine mammal foraging area (Stellwagen Bank) during late fall and winter and are a first step towards understanding both how odontocetes influence the Massachusetts Bay/Gulf of Maine ecosystem and how they may be impacted by human activities.

publication date

  • November 21, 2019