2013: Real-time monitoring for beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in the Eagle River, Alaska using a PAMBuoy® detection system

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Gillespie D, Castellote M, Maginnis A and RJ Small

16th May 2013 -- Real time monitoring for beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in the Eagle River, Alaskausing a PAMBuoy® detection system. Final Contract Report by SMRU, LLC and Marine Instruments Ltd. 19p.

The Army and Air Force teamed with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) to investigate the use of real-time passive acoustic monitoring for belugas. SMRU Ltd, SMRU, LLC and Marine Instruments Ltd were contracted to conduct a trial of their PAMBuoy® system in Eagle River as part of a multi-year effort leaded by ADF&G and NMML to conduct applied passive acoustics research on Cook Inlet belugas (CIBA project).

A PAMBuoy® detection system was deployed in the mouth of the Eagle River, Alaska between 12 and 31 August 2012, close to the point at which the river flows out into Eagle Bay. The system was configured to detect both the echolocation clicks and the whistles of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) known to be regular visitors to both the Bay and the River at that time of year. The PAMBuoy® system utilizes a low power digital signal processing system to automatically detect certain types of sound and then sends that information in near real time over a wireless communications system to a remote base station.

The primary purpose of the deployment was to assess how effectively the system can detect beluga whales with the eventual aim of setting up a system which can automatically alert staff at the nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) military base when animals approach or are in the river.

The system was effective at detecting both clicks and whistles during the trial period, successfully detecting all (100%) sightings from within the river and 430 out of all 432 (99.5%) recorded sightings at ranges varying from 10 to 1035m from both within and from outside the river. A negligible false alarm rate and high efficiency could be achieved by requiring multiple click detections within a short time window (e.g. 20 clicks in 10s). These results indicate that the system efficiency is more than dequate for the primary purpose of detecting whale presence within or close to the river.

Since the publication of this article, PAMBhuoy has been re-named to Decimus in order reflect the true nature of our products.

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