Despite increasing efforts to better understand cetacean distribution and habitat use in the broader New York Bight, considerable knowledge gaps still exist, and particularly around the busy waters of the New York Harbor. In support of WCS's work to protect species and places for wildlife, and in response to the pressing need for baseline information on cetaceans in this data-poor area, a Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) project was implemented in 2018 with the aim to fill some of these important knowledge gaps and specifically investigate 1) the temporal and spatial distribution of vocalizing cetaceans and 2) characterize temporal and spatial variability in noise levels in the New York Harbor area.



Acoustic recorders were deployed from October 2018 to October 2020 in, or in close proximity to, the Lower and Upper NY Bay. The recorders were set to record across a wide frequency bandwidth to target both the low frequency vocalizing large whale species (humpback whales, North Atlantic right whales (NARW), minke whales, and fin whales) and the higher frequency vocalizing delphinid species (bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoise).

A map of the New York Harbor Acoustic Monitoring buoys (HRF Recorder Locations) in black, WCS – WHOI buoy sites in red and yellow, Equinor Wind Lease 0512 area outlined in green, shipping lanes, and North Atlantic right whale Seasonal Management Area (NARW SMA). Shipping lanes feeding into the Port of New York and New Jersey are shown in hashed light grey. The NARW SMA is outlined in red hatched lines and is in effect from 1 November to 20 April each year (NOAA NARW SMA).

In December 2020, Drs. Howard Rosenbaum and Melinda (Mindi) Rekdahl presented interesting results from the New York Harbor Acoustic Monitoring project at the Hudson River Foundation’s Edward A. Ames Seminar (A Whale of a Tale: Acoustic Monitoring in the Upper and Lower New York Bay), and discussed the implications for whale and dolphin conservation in the busy New York Harbor and the wider New York Bight. The presentation can also be found on the Watch Our Recent Webinars page from the left-hand side menu.

This spectrogram shows three different types of bottlenose dolphin vocalizations recorded in the New York Harbor. The white box on the left outlines a series of echolocation clicks, the middle box outlines a few overlapping whistles, and the right box outlines a buzz. Spectrograms show the time on the bottom (x-axis) and frequency on the left (y-axis) and the gray scale indicates relative amplitude (or loudness of the sound).


WCS Ocean Giants Drs. Howard Rosenbaum and Melinda (Mindi) Rekdahl retrieving acoustic recorders from the New York Harbor.


This project was supported by the Hudson River Foundation under grant number (001/17E).