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"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."

-A.A. Milne

The NOAA CetSound Project

In a January 19, 2010 letter to the President's Council on Environmental Quality, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco committed to improving the tools used by the agency to evaluate the impacts of human-induced noise on cetacean species. As a result, two data and product-driven working groups were convened in January 2011: the Underwater Sound-field Mapping Working Group and the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group. In May 2012, the working groups presented their products at a Symposium where potential management applications were discussed with a large multi-stakeholder audience.

For more information, please visit the Cetacean & Sound Mapping website: https://cetsound.noaa.gov/cetsound
Global Shipping Traffic

Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group:

The specific objective of the NOAA Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group (SoundMap) is to create mapping methods to depict the temporal, spatial, and spectral characteristics of underwater noise.

Check out products, like the map of global shipping traffic (right), here.
Sperm Whale Density Map

Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group:

The specific objective of the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Group (CetMap) is to create regional cetacean density and distribution maps that are time- and species-specific, using survey data and models that estimate density using predictive environmental factors. Separately, to augment the more quantitative density mapping and provide additional context for impact analyses, the CetMap is also identifying known areas of specific importance for cetaceans, such as reproductive areas, feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small or resident populations are concentrated.
Check out products, like the sperm whale density map (left), here.

Biologically Important Areas Special Issue Publication

This special issue on Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) was published on March 1, 2015 and originated as a side bar to the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping (CetMap) Working Group, a part of NOAA's CetSound program. At the following link (cetsound.noaa.gov/important) you can download the special issue and supporting materials, view an interactive map, and download the shape files for the BIA boundaries.

The CetMap working group recognized the necessity of creating BIAs to incorporate additional information into the mapping tool by identifying areas where cetacean species or populations are known to concentrate for specific behaviors, or are range-limited, but for which there is not sufficient data for their importance to be reflected in the quantitative mapping effort. The result of the BIA assessment process includes narratives, maps, and tables that provide additional context within which to examine potential interactions between cetaceans and human activities. Our aim for this assessment is to combine expert judgement with available data (published or unpublished) to delineate BIAs for each species and each region. Our goal is not to define marine protected areas. Rather, we are identifying sites where cetaceans engage in activities at certain times that contribute to an individual's health and fitness and, ultimately, to the fecundity and survivor-ship of the population. During the conservation and management decision-making process, BIAs should be considered in addition to existing density estimates, range-wide distribution data, information on population trends and life history parameters, known threats to the population, and other relevant information.

There are 8 chapters in this special issue, an introduction, and 7 regional manuscripts covering the US East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, US West coast, Hawaii, Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and Arctic. Each chapter was written by scientific experts who have a thorough knowledge with the species and region in question. Although a common theme unites all chapters, there are regional variations in the amount and type of information available to undertake the assessment and the number and types of species covered. It was not feasible to create BIAs for every species due to either the lack of information to support the delineation or, in some cases, simply due to the time available for this effort. However, these BIAs are meant to be living documents that should be routinely reviewed and revised to expand the number of species covered and update the existing BIAs as new information becomes available.

In that light, it is critical to start this special issue where all good things should start, at the beginning. The BIA special issue begins with an introductory chapter that highlights the rationale and decisions made during this inaugural BIA assessment process. This is a MUST read before you delve further into a regional chapter. The introduction includes all the BIA CRITERIA and CAVEATS and summarizes these in a digestible series of tables. We hope that this BIA special issue will be of use to scientists and managers alike and will assist with planning, analyses, and decisions regarding how to reduce adverse impacts to cetaceans resulting from human activities.

A few examples of the BIAs for the East Coast US are shown here:
Two minke whale feeding BIAs North Atlantic right whale mating BIA Harbor porpoise small and resident population
Figure 1. Two minke whale feeding BIAs from March-November in the northeast Atlantic substantiated through vessel based survey data and expert judgment. Figure 2. North Atlantic right whale mating BIA in the central Gulf of Maine from November - January described from a demographic study of North Atlantic right whale habitats. Figure 3. Harbor porpoise small and resident population in the Gulf of Maine, July to September, substantiated through vessel and aerial based survey data, genetic analyses and expert judgment.

Partners: NOAA Sanctuaries Office, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA S&T Duke University, Heat Light & Sound Ltd.

Primary Funders: NOAA S&T, NOAA OPR, NOAA
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