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Page updated 19.3.2014

Porpoises in the Baltic Sea!

Underwater sonar monitoring reveals the presence of endangered porpoise

Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) is closely involved with an international project investigating the incidence of the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise, the endangered cetacean species found in the Baltic.  The size and distribution of the porpoise population is being surveyed through bio-sonar recordings. Findings suggest that the largest population is currently based in Danish territorial waters. In Finland, confirmed sightings have been made in the southwestern open sea areas.

Between May 2011 and April 2013, the EU-funded Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour Porpoise (SAMBAH) collected significant amounts of data on Baltic Sea porpoise populations.  More accurate estimates on population size are required to facilitate the design of conservation activities in the area.


Echolocation monitoring yields more accurate information on porpoise populations

The method used by the SAMBAH project records echolocation signals emitted by the porpoises to aid their movement, hunting and communication. The static acoustic monitoring is expected to yield more accurate information on porpoise populations than manual monitoring carried out on-board boats or aircraft. The sounds are recorded using acoustic monitoring devices placed on the seabed.

Later this year, population density data will be used to model the presence of the porpoise in the area. The model will be used to generate more detailed range maps reflecting temporal variation and porpoise incidence in relation to a variety of environmental factors, such as salinity. The maps can be used to identify the key porpoise habitats and areas where the risk of conflict with human activities is greatest.

Finland is represented and Finnish project funding provided by TUAS, the Ministry of the Environment, Särkänniemi Dolphinarium and WWF Finland. In addition, the project team comprises partners from seven other countries.