Ultrasonic coded transmitters (UCTs) producing frequencies of 69-83 kHz are used increasingly to track fish and invertebrates in coastal and estuarine waters. To address concerns that they might be audible to marine mammals, acoustic properties of UCTs were measured off Mission Beach, San Diego, and at the U.S. Navy TRANSDEC facility. A regression model fitted to VEMCO UCT data yielded an estimated source level of 147 dB re 1 μPa SPL @ 1 m and spreading constant of 14.0. Based on TRANSDEC measurements, five VEMCO 69 kHz UCTs had source levels ranging from 146 to 149 dB re 1 μPa SPL @ 1 m. Five Sonotronics UCTs (69 kHz and 83 kHz) had source levels ranging from 129 to 137 dB re 1 μPa SPL @ 1 m. Transmitter directionality ranged from 3.9 to 18.2 dB. Based on propagation models and published data on marine mammal auditory psychophysics, harbor seals potentially could detect the VEMCO 69 kHz UCTs at ranges between 19 and >200 m, while odontocetes potentially could detect them at much greater ranges. California sea lions were not expected to detect any of the tested UCTs at useful ranges.
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