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Passive Acoustic Research in the Atlantic Ocean

We use innovative passive acoustic technologies to study the behavior, movements and distribution of marine animals and their contribution to soundscape ecology. We also evaluate how man-made sounds affect marine animals.

This illustration shows the variety of technologies that NOAA Fisheries researchers use to record underwater sounds and study marine animals. The seascape shows bottom- mounted and drifting acoustic recorders, underwater autonomous vehicles, Atlantic cod and humpback whale with tags, and instruments deployed from a NOAA ship and small boat. Colored circles show a zoomed-in view of the instruments and indicate the type of data collected: green for real-time data, orange for archival data, and blue for active NOAA Fisheries studies marine animals by using a variety of technologies to record underwater sounds, including archival passive acoustic recordings (orange), real-time acoustic data collection (green), and active acoustics (blue).

Marine mammals and many fish produce and receive sound in the ocean. In an environment where vision is limited, hearing is one of the most important senses. These animals rely on sound for navigating, socializing, establishing dominance, attracting mates, avoiding predators, and finding food.

Using passive acoustic technologies, we study long-term changes in the behavior, movements, and distribution of marine animals. To do this we:

  • Explore how sound-producing species and anthropogenic sounds make up soundscapes in different areas.
  • Monitor and evaluate the impacts of sounds made by human activities such as vessels using protected and sensitive areas as well as shipping lanes, and offshore wind energy development.
  • Use our sound recordings and research results for a range of outreach and education.

Since 2006, we have been deploying acoustic recorders on the ocean bottom to study underwater sounds. These recorders collect and store acoustic data for several weeks to years. Our work is primarily focused on the Atlantic Ocean but we also work elsewhere, especially in the Caribbean and off Australia.

To view different acoustic deployments, visit our Passive Acoustic Cetacean Map(PACM). We invite data contributions to improve and expand PACM so that it can provide broader research, management, and conservation context for users. For more information, or to express interest in contributing data, contact NMFS PACM DATA.To provide passive acoustic data to PACM, please use these template datasheets.

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Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on February 09, 2024

Acoustics Marine Mammals