Marine petroleum seismic exploration is a persistent and intense source of underwater noise which great whales encounter around the globe. Most developed nations require some form of mitigation measures for great whale encounters during seismic operations and these conditions apply to all activities conducted by their citizens anywhere in the world. There have been a number of studies of effects of seismic operations on whales but knowledge remains limited. Regulations may be expressed in terms of "significant" effects on whales, usually implying lasting biological effects but there is little information on this available.

Hence, there is considerable uncertainty in the knowledge required to adequately manage impacts of seismic surveys on whales. This has implications for both the protection of whales and the cost of management and mitigation. There is uncertainty on whether the ramp-up or soft start used at the start of a survey as a mitigation measure is effective. In order to reduce these uncertainties, behavioural response studies are required to determine the reactions of whales to seismic arrays, and to infer the biological significance of the exposure. There needs to be experiments to understand how whales react to ramp-up to assess its effectiveness and to design improved mitigation measures.

This project aims to address these issues. Environmental regulation of impact of noise on marine mammals is usually concerned with "significant" impacts with varying interpretations of what is "significant". This project aims to make some inferences about the effects on life functions by comparing responses of whales to exposure with the substantial existing knowledge of the behaviour and function of the behaviour under a wide range of conditions in the absence of air gun use.