Sampling event

Cetacean sighting records during a seismic survey in the New Caledonia Basin, Tasman Sea, 2015-6

Latest version published by Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node on 09 April 2024 Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node

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The distribution of marine mammal species in many areas remains poorly understood, especially as observations for some taxa are rare and large-scale surveys are time consuming and extremely costly. Here, we present 36 records of 7 cetacean species (Balaenoptera brydei, B. musculus subspp., Delphinus delphis, Globicephala sp., Grampus griseus, Physeter macrocephalus, Pseudorca crassidens) in the New Caledonia Basin, Tasman Sea. Data were derived from a platform of opportunity during a seismic survey that ran between December 2015 and March 2016, inclusively. The two most frequently encountered species were sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus, 13 sightings, 5 acoustic detections) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus subspp., 8 visual detections). All encountered species are known to occur in New Zealand waters at least occasionally, based on historical sightings and stranding records. However, data presented here are the first cetacean records for this specific area and demonstrate that seismic vessels can act as a platform of opportunity for studying cetacean distribution in poorly accessible areas. Such data will aid future research efforts including species distribution models on cetaceans in the South Pacific.

Data Records

The data in this sampling event resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 36 records.

2 extension data tables also exist. An extension record supplies extra information about a core record. The number of records in each extension data table is illustrated below.

Event (core)

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How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Peters K J, Stockin K A (2024). Cetacean sighting records during a seismic survey in the New Caledonia Basin, Tasman Sea, 2015-6. Version 1.0. Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. Samplingevent dataset.


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The publisher and rights holder of this work is Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 8c5b8c75-ea71-43f3-ab1a-8706ab732e3b.  Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by Ocean Biodiversity Information System.


Occurrence; Observation


Katharina J. Peters
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Cetacean Ecology Research Group, School of Natural and Computational Sciences, Massey University
Karen A. Stockin
  • Originator
Cetacean Ecology Research Group, School of Natural and Computational Sciences, Massey University

Geographic Coverage

Tasman Sea

Bounding Coordinates South West [-38.839, 164.9], North East [-31.55, 173.669]

Taxonomic Coverage

Cetaceans (whales and dolphins)

Order Cetartiodactyla

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 2015-12-18 / 2016-03-28

Sampling Methods

Cetacean surveys were completed in the southern sector of the New Caledonia Basin in the Tasman Sea to the west of New Zealand’s North Island. A total survey area coverage of 205,000 km2 was achieved, from ~200 km from New Zealand’s west coast (171.430609 E, 37.650542 S), extending 1,200 km onto the New Zealand extended continental shelf (163.322699 E, 32.446492 S). Water depth in the basin ranges from 2,000–3,500 m. The geophysical seismic survey vessel Hai Yang Shi You 718 was deployed to conduct a two-dimensional (2D) marine seismic survey between 18 December 2015 and 28 March 2016. As required under the 2013 New Zealand Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations, qualified and80trained marine mammal observers and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) operators maintained a 24-hour monitoring program for cetaceans, this way serving as an opportunistic observational platform.

Study Extent New Caledonia Basin, Tasman Sea

Method step description:

  1. Visual observations were completed by two MMOs in rotating shifts (one MMO on duty at any time) during daylight hours (dawn to dusk) from the bridge, bridge deck and wings of the seismic vessel, providing 360° visibility of the area at a height of 16.5 m above sea level. Observers predominantly scanned the area for cetaceans with the naked eye but used binoculars (7 x 50 magnification) to search the horizon and to determine species and estimate group size. When cetaceans were sighted, observers estimated the radial sighting distance to the animal(s) using the binoculars’ reticules following (Lerczak and Hobbs 1998). Time of day, GPS position, water depth and species were further recorded. Species determination included an indication of observer confidence ranging between ‘certain’ (100%), ‘probable’ (75%) and ‘possible’ (50%).
  2. In addition to the visual observations, passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) was conducted continuously by two experienced PAM operators during the entire survey (one PAM operator on duty at any time). There were three complete Seiche PAM systems onboard. Each system comprised one hydrophone array, one tow cable, one deck cable plus all electronics such as computers and audio interfaces. The towed hydrophone array consisted of four hydrophones (two low-frequency and two high-frequency) towed using a 240 m long cable at a depth of 27 m, 20 m forward of the air guns. The AD/DA audio interfaces were RME Fireface 800 - sampling rates up to 192,000 Hz (Hertz) and NI USB-6251 - sampling rates up to 500,000 Hz. At the PAM workstation, an Intel i5-3570 CPU (central processing unit), 3.40 GHz (Gigahertz) with 8 GB (Gigabyte) RAM (random access memory) was running PAMGuard version 1.14.00 Beta. This was connected to the vessel’s global positioning system (GPS) via the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) serial port at a baud rate of 9,600. All three hydrophone arrays were tap tested and calibrated for depth while in transit to the survey area. The final PAMGuard configuration was set to detect endemic and vagrant cetaceans using high and low frequency click detectors with respective ranges of 0–24 kHz (kilohertz) and 10 Hz–250 kHz.

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Peters, K. J., & Stockin, K. A. (2022). Cetacean sighting records in the New Caledonia Basin, Tasman Sea, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 56(1), 135–149.

Additional Metadata

marine, harvested by iOBIS