The Acoustic Ecology and Behaviors of Minke Whales in the North Pacific Islands

Goal: To detect, locate and track vocalizing minke whales in the North Pacific Islands to better understand their acoustic ecology and behaviors.

Our Role:To design and conduct vessel-based acoustic line-transect surveys of minke whales and estimated density of animals in the primary study area.

Time Period: Winter/Spring 2009 & 2010.


During winter and spring, minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the North Pacific produce a unique and distinctive sound known as a 'boing'. Minke whales are notoriously difficult to detect and observe visually in sub-tropical areas such as the Hawaiian Islands. Bio-Waves used towed hydrophone arrays behind a quiet motor-sailing research vessel to detect, locate and track vocalizing minke whales off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Simultaneously, our research partners were using bottom mounted hydrophones located throughout the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) to monitor and localize minke whales in real-time.  Our goal was to analyze these complementary datasets to acoustically estimate minke whale density in the area. To analyze the towed hydrophone array data, Bio-waves developed a MATLAB-based program called “Boinger”, which was used to post-process the data and better estimate localizations and measure call characteristics of boings. With data extracted by Boinger, it was possible to examine questions related to call characteristics, and to estimate the density of animals. The findings and new methods resulting from this project are providing information that will improve the conservation and management of this and other species.


  • Steve Martin, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR)
  • Dr. Len Thomas and Dr. Vincent Janik, St. Andrews University
  • Dr. Eva Nosal, University of Hawaii

Sponsor: Office of Naval Research (ONR)

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