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Impact of vessel noise on the Australian fur seal colonies

Seal Rocks is the largest Australian fur seal breeding colony and a key tourism destination. Visitation peaks during the pupping/breeding season, a time in which the colony is particularly vulnerable to disturbance. Research continues...

The project investigating the impact of vessel noise on the Australian fur seal colony at Seal Rocks is running full steam ahead. This collaborative project is made up of a team of researchers from the University of Sydney, Phillip Island Nature Parks, and University Paris-Saclay/CNRS.

Jessalyn Taylor, the PhD student leading this project, has just returned from France, where she spent four weeks at the Acoustic Communications lab at University Paris-Saclay/CNRS. During this time, she learned how to analyse seal behavioural responses to vessel noise and the underwater sound data collected by the hydrophones earlier this year. Preliminary results of these two aspects of the project will be presented at the Ecological Society of Australia and the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania (ESA-SCBO) 2022 Conference in November.

Data collection will be repeated for a second year, starting in the upcoming breeding season. The hydrophones will be deployed mid-December to capture the peak visitation season, and the team are preparing for another trip out to Seal Rocks to assess the health of young pups. This will be followed by playback experiments testing seal responses to motor vessel noise in January 2023. The health assessment and playbacks will then be repeated one last time in May-June 2023.

Thanks go to the Penguin Foundation, who funded the hydrophones, and also to the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment (from ESA) and the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), who’s funding has supported our field and laboratory research.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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