Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 493–509 | Cite as

Monitoring white whales (Delphinapterus leucas) with echolocation loggers

  • Manuel Castellote
  • Ruth H. Leeney
  • Gregory O’Corry-Crowe
  • Rauno Lauhakangas
  • Kit M. Kovacs
  • William Lucey
  • Vera Krasnova
  • Christian Lydersen
  • Kathleen M. Stafford
  • Roman Belikov
Original Paper


Monitoring programmes for white whales (Delphinapterus leucas) have been called for repeatedly in recent years because this species is likely to be negatively impacted by climate change, but also because such a broadly dispersed, high trophic feeder can serve as an effective ecosystem sentinel. Arctic ecosystems are difficult to monitor because of the extensive winter ice coverage and extreme environmental conditions in addition to low human population densities. However, passive acoustic monitoring has proved to be a reliable method to remotely survey the presence of some marine mammals in the Arctic. In this study, we evaluate the potential use of echolocation loggers (T-POD and C-POD, Chelonia Ltd.) for remote monitoring of white whales. Captive experiments and open water surveys in three arctic/subarctic habitats (ice-noise-dominated environment, ice-free environment and low-turbidity waters) were used to document detection performance and to explore the use of logger angle and inter-click interval data to look at activity patterns and tidal influences on space use. When acoustic results were compared to concurrent visual observations, echolocation detection was only attributed to periods of white whale presence near the recorder deployment sites. Both T-PODs and C-PODs effectively detected echolocation, even under noisy ice. Diel and tidal behavioural patterns were identified. Acoustically identified movement patterns between sites were visually confirmed. This study demonstrates the feasibility of monitoring white whales using echolocation loggers and describes some important features of their behaviour as examples of the potential application of this passive acoustic monitoring method in Arctic and subarctic regions.


Beluga whales Delphinapterus leucas Echolocation loggers Passive acoustic monitoring T-POD C-POD 



We thank the Director of the Biology Department at L’Oceanogràfic of the City of the Arts and Sciences of Valencia, Spain, Mr. Pablo Areitio, and the Director of L’Oceanogràfic, Dr. Francisco Torner, for their support in the coordination of this study. We also appreciate the enthusiasm of The Marine Mammal Department and white whale staff from L’Oceanogràfic. We thank the Protected Resources Division, Alaska Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, Juneau, Alaska) for providing funding for the research in Disenchantment Bay. Special thanks go to Kaja Brix, Rod Hobbs, Barbara Mahoney and Brad Smith (all NMFS) for their continued support in many aspects of the project in Alaska. Nick Tregenza participated in Svalbard field work and provided useful comments in an earlier version of this manuscript. We appreciate the help provided by Sam Williams, Jeremiah Pavlik, Les Hartley, Doug DeMaster and Shannon Atkinson in Disenchantment Bay field work. We also acknowledge the assistance provided by the City and Borough of Yakutat, the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe and the US Park Service. We thank the Saimaa Seal Information Center and Juha Taskinen for providing field work support in the White Sea. All research in Disenchantment Bay was conducted under the National Marine Mammal Laboratory’s (NMFS, NOAA) Scientific Research Permit No. 782-1719. The work in Svalbard was funded by an ARCFAC Transnational Access Programme, EU FP6 grant to RH Leeney (ARCFAC026129-49), and was additionally supported by the Norwegian Polar Institute. RH Leeney was funded by the European Social Fund.

Supplementary material

300_2012_1276_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (253 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 253kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel Castellote
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruth H. Leeney
    • 3
    • 4
  • Gregory O’Corry-Crowe
    • 5
  • Rauno Lauhakangas
    • 6
  • Kit M. Kovacs
    • 7
  • William Lucey
    • 8
  • Vera Krasnova
    • 9
  • Christian Lydersen
    • 7
  • Kathleen M. Stafford
    • 10
  • Roman Belikov
    • 9
  1. 1.Parques Reunidos Valencia S. A. L’Oceanogràfic, Ciudad de las Artes y las CienciasValenciaSpain
  2. 2.National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science CenterNational Marine Fisheries Service, NOAASeattleUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of ExeterCornwallUK
  4. 4.Benguela Research and TrainingWalvis BayNamibia
  5. 5.Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstituteFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  6. 6.Helsinki Institute of PhysicsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Norwegian Polar InstituteFram CentreTromsøNorway
  8. 8.City and Borough of YakutatYakutatUSA
  9. 9.P. P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  10. 10.Applied Physics LaboratoryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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