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Passive Acoustic Survey

Click the links to learn more about the Whale Monitoring Program and the Aerial Survey.


  1. Determine the presence, relative distribution and daily, monthly, and seasonal distribution of the six species.
  2. Identify which species are most likely to overlap with ship traffic, and where and when this is most likely to occur.
  3. Characterize ambient noise in the area of the shipping lanes and acoustic masking potential.

The Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell University's Cornell Lab of Ornithology is conducting the passive acoustic survey for large whales in the New York Bight. The survey consists of 15 archival recording devices deployed adjacent to two major shipping lanes from NY/NJ Harbor, one extending east towards Montauk (Ambrose-Nantucket) and one extending southeast towards Hudson Canyon (Ambrose-Hudson).

New York Bight Whale Monitoring Program, Acoustic Survey map


Two different recording unit types are being used: 10 are Cornell University's Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and 5 are JASOC's Autonomous Multichannel Acoustic Recorders (AMARs). The receivers collect data year-round and will cover the time frame from October 2017 to October 2020. MARUs record at a 5 kHz sampling frequency while AMARs record at an 8 kHz sampling frequency. Receivers are anchored on the sea floor and recovered every 3 and 6 months (respectively) to reduce the risk of data loss.


Automated species-specific detector algorithms and manual human analyst browsing are used to identify whale sounds. At the end of the three years, daily, monthly, and seasonal presence for each of the six priority large whale species during each year will be summarized and include:

  1. Percent and number of days per deployment in which at least one call was heard
  2. For each month and season the pattern of daily contacts
  3. Spatial distribution of days within each month and season containing calls per receiver
  4. Analysis of inter-annual variability of these parameters
  5. Calculations of ambient noise and acoustic masking potential
  6. Maps of cumulative spatial distribution of each whale species for each year and for the entire survey


Below are the passive acoustic survey reports to date:

  1. Final Report for Passive Acoustic Surveys (PDF) (10MB)
  2. Year Two Passive Acoustic Survey Annual Report (PDF)
  3. Year One Passive Acoustic Survey Annual Report (PDF)