burrows pass


Acoustic Click Train


Aileen with Daisy - the orphan harbor porpoise




Harbor Porpoise Project History


Biota Maxima’s Harbor Porpoise Project is using acoustic monitors to assess the trend of the harbor porpoise population in the Salish Sea.

Acoustic instruments are being used globally to monitor populations of harbor porpoises and other cetaceans. T-PODs and C-PODs have been used to estimate density of harbor porpoises in the Baltic and North Sea (Kyhn 2012, Tougaard 2009, 2014, Bailey 2010, 2014) and they have been used to estimate densities of other cetacean species (Marques et al, 2009). Behavior modification and displacement due to construction noise have been recorded by groups using acoustic instruments in the North Sea (Tougaard 2009, 2014) and Canada (Culik 2001). C-PODs have been used to study the dramatic decline in harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea in recent decades, where the population is considered critically endangered (Benke 2014). The vaquita is also critically endangered and acoustic instruments are being used to assess the population decline which is attributed to gill net fishing (Gerrodette 2011).

One of Biota Maxima’s missions is to identify scientific tools and to develop information to aid in the protection of rare and imperiled species. A key to recovery of these species is the understanding of threats and limiting factors while these factors still can be overcome. To do this, we have been researching harbor porpoise habitat needs and other factors that limit the current population. As a result of our studies, we think the harbor porpoise may actually fill the role of a Sentinel Species for the Salish Sea.

Read Biota Maxima's publications related to the Harbor Porpoise Project.

The long term research needs for harbor porpoise conservation were documented during the Salish Sea Harbor Porpoise Workshop initiated by Biota Maxima (Formerly Pacific Biodiversity Institute), co-sponsored by Cascadia Research Collective and the Sea Doc Society, held on February 7, 2013, in Anacortes, Washington. This workshop created a Statement on Salish Sea Harbor Porpoise Research and Management Needs that is regularly referenced by Washington resource managers.

In 2008, Aileen Jeffries, initiated a project to monitor harbor porpoise population and trends in the Puget Sound. The long-term goal of this project is to set a baseline for the population that can be used to realistically assess the stability of the species in the Salish Sea and to assess the need for marine reserves. Another goal of the project is to determine if the harbor porpoise is, in fact, an appropriate Sentinel Species for the Puget Sound. Aileen's research results from December 2010 to the present are summarized with Biota Maxima's publications.

Historically, the population has been assessed through aerial surveys. They provide a snapshot of what is visible from the air at intervals that have been one to eight years apart. In order to collect more detailed information, Biota Maxima’s project is designed to collect porpoise occurrence and distribution data with use of passive acoustic monitors (PAMs). The current PAM being tested is the C-POD, which is deployed in several places in Western Europe and North America to monitor cetaceans. We are deploying C-PODs at selected locations to measure harbor porpoise presence/absence continuously. Our data over successive years from the C-PODs is indicating trends in their current distribution in the northern Puget Sound. This will add to the scant body of knowledge of the harbor porpoise’s habitat use, its current range and population trends.

The presence of two porpoise species in the Puget Sound, harbor and Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli), is a complicating factor for acoustic monitoring of the harbor porpoise. Since we have visual observers at Burrows Pass and Admiralty Inlet, we can demonstrate that Dall's porpoise have not been seen in the Burrows Pass area and are rarely seen at the Admiralty site.

In 2009, we were granted access to acoustically record an orphan harbor porpoise which had been rescued by the Marine Mammal Rescue Center, Vancouver, British Columbia. Aileen Jeffries recorded high-frequency acoustic signals (clicks) from the porpoise to test and compare the signal recorded by the C-POD monitor to that of a powerful hydrophone, the Reson T4034. Read about Aileen’s work with Daisy, the rescued harbor porpoise.

At present we have five C-PODs that are being deployed. Our long-term goal for this initiative is to develop a geo-spatial model that can help predict the optimal habitat for the harbor porpoise based on biophysical data and knowledge of the behavioral ecology of the animal. We also intend to identify areas suitable for Protected Marine Reserve Areas.

Bailey, H., G. Clay, E.A. Coates, D. Lisseay, B. Senior, P. M. Thompson. 2010. Using T-PODs to assess variations in the occurrence of coastal bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, @): 150-158

Bailey et al. 2014. Assessing environmental impacts of offshore wind farms: lessons learned and recommendations for the future. Aquatic Biosystems 10:8.

Baird, R. 2003a. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena (Pacific Ocean Population) in Canada. COSEWIC Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 22 p.

Baird, R.W., M. B. Hanson, E.E. Ashe, M. R. Heithaus, G. J. Marshall. 2003. Studies of Foraging in "Southern resident" Killer Whales during July 2002: Dive depths, bursts in speed, and the use of a "Crittercam" system for examining sub-surface behavior. Biology Dept., Dalhouse University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Baird, R. W. 1994a. A program to monitor the status of small cetaceans in British Columbia. First Annual Pacific Ecozone Workshop, Sidney, B. C., Feb 1–3, 1994, 122–131.

Baird, R. 1994b. BC Sightings Program Technical Report Series No. 222, Pacific and Yukon Region, Canadian Wildlife Service. 130

Benke, H., S. Brager et al. 2014. Baltic Sea harbour porpoise populations: status and conservation needs derived from recent survey results. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Vol. 495: 275–290, 2014 doi: 10.3354/meps10538

Bossart, G. D. 2011. Marine Mammals as Sentinel Species for Oceans and Human Health. Vetenary Pathology 48(3) 676-690

Bossart, G. D. 2006. Marine Mammals as Sentinel Species for Oceans and Human Health Oceanography. Vol 19 No 2 134-138 p.

Carretta, J. V., K. A. Forney, E. Oleson, K. Martien, J. Barlow, B. Hanson. 2011. U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments: 2011NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFSC-488 U. S. Department of Commerce. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Chandler, T., J. Calambokidis. 2003. Aerial surveys for harbor porpoise and other marine mammals off Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Contract Report for National Marine Mammal Laboratory. 282 p.

Chelonia. 2012. (http://www.chelonia.co.uk/ last accessed 2016)

Culik, B. M., S. Koschinski, N. Tregenza, G. M. Ellis. 2001. Reactions of harbor porpoises Phocoena phocoena and herring Clupea harengus to acoustic alarms. Marine Ecology Progress Series 211:255–260.

Evenson, J.R., D. Anderson, B.L. Murphie, T.A. Cyra, and J. Calambokidis. 2016. Disappearance and return of harbor porpoise to Puget Sound: 20 year pattern revealed from winter aerial surveys. Technical Report.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Program and Cascadia Research Collective, Olympia, WA.

Flaherty, C., S. Stark. 1982. Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) assessment in Washington Sound. Final Report for Subcontract 80-ABA-3584, NOAA, NMFS, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, WA. 84 p.

Gearin, P. J., M. E. Gosho, J. L. Laake, L. Cooke, R. L. DeLong, K. M. Hughes. 1998. Experimental testing of acoustic alarms (pingers) to reduce bycatch of harbour propoise, Phocoena phocoena, in the state of Washington.J. Cetacean Res. 2(1)1-9.

Gerrodette, T., L. Rojas-Bracho. 2011. Estimating the success of protected areas for the vaquita, Phocoena sinus. MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, 27E101–E125

Hall, A. 2011. Foraging behaviour and reproductive season habitat: Selection of northeast pacific porpoises. PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 197 p.

Hall, A. M. 2004. Seasonal abundance, distribution and prey species of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in Southern Vancouver Island Waters. University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology, Vancouver. 109 p.

Hanson, M.B., R.W. Baird and R.L. DeLong. 1999. Movements of a tagged harbor porpoise in inland Washington waters from June 1998 to January 1999.AFSC Processed Report. 99.08. pp. 85-86

Hanson, M.B. 2007a. Using Location Data from Telemetry Tagged Marine Mammals to Improve Stock Assessments. Pp 62-63, In Sheridan, P., J. W. Ferguson, and S. L. Downing

Huggins, J. L., S. A. Raverty, J. Calambokidis et al. 2015. Increased harbor porpoise mortality in the Pacific Northwest, USA: understanding when higher levels may be normal DISEASES OF AQUATIC ORGANISMS Vol. 115: 93–102, 2015 doi: 10.3354/dao02887Inter-Research 2015 · www.int-res.com

Jefferson, T. A., B. E. Curry. 1994. Global review of porpoise (Cetacea: Phocoenidae) mortality in gillnets. Biological Conservation 67:167-183

Jeffries, A. 2011. Harbor Porpoise Observations in Burrows Pass December 2009 through December 2010. Pacific Biodiversity Institute. Winthrop, Washington. 27 p.

Jeffries, A. 2012. Passive Acoustics: An effective monitoring technique for the harbor porpoise - 2011 to 2012, Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Winthrop, Washington. 15 p.

Jeffries, A. 2014. Land-Based Observations of Harbor Porpoise in Burrows Pass, 2011 to 2013. Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Winthrop, Washington. 23 P.

Kyhn, L. A., J. Tougaard, L. Thomas, L. R. Duve, J. Stenback, M. Amundin, G. Desportes, J. Teilmann. 2012. From echolocation clicks to animal density—Acoustic sampling of harbor porpoises with static data loggers. JASA 131:550-560.550-560.

Marques, T. A., L. Thomas, J. Ward, N. DiMarzio, P. L. Tyack. 2009. Estimating cetacean population density using fixed passive acoustic sensors: An example with Blainville’s beaked whales. JASA 125(4) 1982-1994.

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Tougaard, J., J. Carstensen, J. Teilmann, H. Slov, P. Rasmussen. 2009. Pile driving zone of responsiveness extends beyond 20 km for harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena (L.)) (L) J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 126 1,11-14

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