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How whales outsmart fishing fleets
They zero in on particular engine sounds, scientists say

Heather Vukelic / SEASWAP / AP file

A sperm whale swims near a fishing boat in Alaska. Sperm whales are likely using the sounds of fishing boat engines as underwater "dinner bells" to hone in on sablefish hooked by longlines in the Gulf of Alaska, scientists say.

Updated: March 3, 2006
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Years ago, the sound of a boat sometimes spelled death for the heavily hunted sperm whale. Now, some of them have figured out, it  means dinner.

Scientists recently figured out that sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska zero in on boat engines to locate miles of fishing lines hung with valuable  sablefish.

"That's the whales' cue," said Jan Straley, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast who since 2002 has helped lead the study.

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