A collaboration between the University of Plymouth and the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), this project will survey the distribution and abundance of cetaceans in the western English Channel and model impacts of shipping noise on cetaceans.
The project outputs will provide a valuable resource for conservation management and planning decisions and will contribute to positive conservation outcomes for coastal cetaceans in noisy environments. The English Channel is the most heavily impacted coastal region in the UK with one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and industries including, fisheries, offshore wind, and recreational boating. These waters are also habitat for multiple cetacean species including harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), common (Delphinus delphis) bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus), Risso’s (Grampus griseus) and white-beaked (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) dolphins. Recently, anthropogenic noise has become a recognised pollutant and shipping noise has a widespread yet poorly measured impact on marine mammals adding to habitat degradation, by-catch and boat disturbance in coastal waters. Despite this, there have been few scientific surveys and as a result there is limited conservation management for cetaceans in the region. The University of Plymouth has been running dedicated cetacean surveys using visual and passive acoustic data collection aboard the University’s 13m sailing vessel
Take the Helm since 2017 (see Fig 1.a). In addition to towed passive acoustic surveys, since 2019 we have been collaborating with CEFAS to maintain a passive acoustic hydrophone mooring collecting data on ship noise and cetacean vocalisations at the mouth of Plymouth Sound (Fig. 1b).
These on-going monitoring campaigns will provide the data for the PhD project which will be analysed together with oceanographic and environmental data.