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MMS Gulf of Mexico sperm whale synthesis report available

Subject: MMS Gulf of Mexico sperm whale synthesis report available
From: Dave Mellinger <>
Date: Tue, 02 Sep 2008 22:46:34 -0700
This is forwarded from Dagmar Fertl <>, but please 
direct replies to MMS, not her.

The following (press release from Minerals Management Service) might be of 
interest to Bioacoustics-L list subscribers. PDF link is listed at bottom of 
email, but note it is an extremely large file. Please direct any inquiries to 
the Minerals Management Service directly.

MMS Releases Synthesis Report on Six-Year, $9.3 Million Study Project

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) released the results of a six-year, $9.3 
million study on sperm whales, an endangered species living in the northern 
Gulf of Mexico. The Sperm Whale Seismic Study (SWSS) focused on the effects of 
seismic activities on sperm whales living in an area that is highly 
industrialized with oil and gas exploration and production activities.

One finding supported by SWSS data is that Northern Gulf of Mexico sperm whales 
are a distinct stock; that is, they show genetic differences from other sperm 
whales world-wide. Also, based on tag location data, the Gulf sperm whales 
showed no discernible seasonal migration. The study also did not find any 
horizontal avoidance of seismic sounds, meaning the whales did not alter their 
visible behavior on the surface when exposed to seismic sounds.

"I am very pleased that MMS could add such a large volume of data on this endangered species 
to the scientific body of knowledge," said Randall Luthi, MMS Director. "As oil and gas 
operations expand further into the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, it is essential for MMS to understand 
the marine mammals in their environment."

Data gathered during SWSS provides insights into daily and seasonal movements, 
abundance, group structure, diving and other behaviors, habitat 
characteristics, and response to human-made noise, of sperm whales in the 
northern Gulf of Mexico. This information will help MMS evaluate whether whales 
prefer some locations, what effects human activities (such as seismic surveys) 
may have on the whales, and possible mitigation measures.

According to Carol Roden, an MMS biologist on the project, "SWSS has given 
scientists a fascinating look at the unique northern Gulf of Mexico sperm whale 
population. The collaboration and dedication of such a diverse group of researchers made 
SWSS a multi-faceted effort that approached the study goals from varied perspectives and 
resulted in new ways to gather data on these endangered animals."

The report, Sperm Whale Seismic Study in the Gulf of Mexico: Synthesis Report 
(MMS 2008-006), (58.95 MB Adobe PDF format file) presents results from the SWSS 
study and gives recommendations for future study:

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