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Update on anthropogenic noise on Australian fur seals

Data collection is almost complete for the final summer season on the PhD project investigating impacts of anthropogenic noise on Australian fur seals, despite difficulties presented by frequent heavy swells and strong winds.

Hydrophones were deployed in late December 2022 to monitor underwater vessel noise during the peak of vessel visitation at Seal Rocks, which coincides with the breeding season. These were collected in February 2023, and data is currently being processed.

On New Year’s Eve, the team ventured out onto Seal Rocks to collect samples from pups for health and stress investigations. Prevailing conditions meant the team had half the time usually required for pup sampling, but still managed to capture and sample 80 pups (out of the originally targeted 100).

At this stage, the remaining tasks to complete for this summer fieldwork season are playback experiments, which directly test seal responses to motor vessel noise. Pup sampling and playbacks will then be repeated for a second and final off-peak/nonbreeding season in May 2023.

Thanks go to the Penguin Foundation, who funded the hydrophones. Thanks also to the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), Sydney School of Veterinary Science (University of Sydney), Phillip Island Nature Parks, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), who’s funding has supported our field and laboratory research.

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