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Au WW, Green M. "Acoustic interaction of humpback whales and whale-watching boats," Marine Environment Research, 2000, 49:5 (June), 469-81

The underwater acoustic noise of five representative whale-watching boats used in the waters of west Maui was measured in order to study the effects of boat noise on humpback whales. The first set of measurements were performed on 9 and 10 March, close to the peak of the whale season. The ambient noise was relatively high with the major contribution from many chorusing humpback whales. Measurements of boat sounds were contaminated by this high ambient background noise. A second set of measurements was performed on 28 and 29 April, towards the end of the humpback whale season. In both sets of measurements, two of the boats were inflatables with outboard engines, two were larger coastal boats with twin inboard diesel engines and the fifth was a small water plane area twin hull (SWATH) ship with inter-island cruise capabilities. The inflatable boats with outboard engines produced very complex sounds with many bands of tonal-like components. The boats with inboard engines produced less intense sounds with fewer tonal bands. One-third octave band measurements of ambient noise measured on 9 March indicated a maximum sound pressure level of about 123 dB re 1 microPa at 315 Hz. The maximum sound pressure level of 127 dB at 315 Hz was measured for the SWATH ship. One of the boats with outboard engines produced sounds between 2 and 4 kHz that were about 8-10 dB greater than the level of background humpback whale sounds at the peak of the whale season. We concluded that it is unlikely that the levels of sounds produced by the boats in our study would have any grave effects on the auditory system of humpback whales.