Sunday, February 12, 2006


Sperm Whales Use Engines As ‘Dinner Bells’

`Sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska are likely using the sounds of fishing boat engines as underwater dinner bells to hone in on longlines hung with valuable sablefish, scientists said.

The engines make loud, erratic bubbling noises as fishermen maneuver their boats while winching up hundreds of bottom-dwelling sablefish.

“That’s the whales’ cue,” said Jan Straley, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast who since 2002 has helped lead an ongoing study of the whales’ behavior.

The study has helped researchers devise low-cost ways for fishermen to hoodwink the highly intelligent cetaceans.

It estimates there are 90 male sperm whales feeding from longlines in the eastern Gulf of Alaska, part of the world’s largest sablefish fishery.’

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