Recovery of Acoustic Recorders Will Expand Knowledge of Cetaceans in the Pacific Islands Region

May 31, 2014
The HARPs, which include flotation, hydrophone, data-logging and other components, will be retrieved and then redeployed at the 
        study sites in waters of Wake Atoll, Saipan and Tinian.
The HARPs, which include flotation, hydrophone, data-logging and other components, will be retrieved and then redeployed at the 
        study sites in waters of Wake Atoll, Saipan and Tinian. The HARPs, which include flotation, hydrophone, data-logging and other components, will be retrieved and then redeployed at the 
        study sites in waters of Wake Atoll, Saipan and Tinian.
The HARPs, which include flotation, hydrophone, data-logging and other components, will be retrieved and then redeployed at the study sites in waters of Wake Atoll, Saipan and Tinian.

During a transit from Honolulu to the Mariana Islands, and upon their arrival in those waters, researchers from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and crew members of the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette will recover and redeploy three High-Frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs) from study sites in the western Pacific. One HARP is located at Wake Atoll, another in waters west of Saipan, and the third east of Tinian. The instruments were deployed at these sites on previous research missions by PIFSC. The HARPs are programmed to record sounds produced by cetaceans and other marine organisms in the surrounding waters. The acoustic recordings are a unique and relatively low-cost way to monitor cetacean populations in these remote regions. The expedition began on May 31, 2014 and will be completed on June 15. Chief Scientists on the mission are PIFSC researcher Erin Oleson and NOAA Corps officer Erik Norris.

Data recovered from the HARPS will add to a valuable time-series of acoustic observations of cetacean occurrence and ambient noise in the central and western Pacific. Monitoring at all three locations began in 2010 and has already revealed the seasonal occurrence of blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, and sperm whales at all three sites. The occurrence of beaked whales and delphinids (e.g., dolphins) is also being evaluated. After recovery, the HARPS will be redeployed to continue their collection of acoustic information. All three HARPs will record data for a full year, enabling assessment of cetacean occurrence during a forecasted El Niño event, and eventually a comparison of cetacean occurrence during the El Niño with observations in prior years.

After the HARP deployments are completed, the Sette will remain in the area for an upcoming expedition to investigate the biology of bottomfish resources in the northern islands of the Marianas. That mission will involve close collaboration between PIFSC and partner marine resource agencies in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.