Underwater listening station launched to better understand impact of ship noise on at-risk whales
Underwater noise has been identified as a key threat to at-risk whales. In order to better understand and manage the impact of shipping activities on whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia, a hydrophone listening station has been deployed by the Port Metro Vancouver, with support from the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada and JASCO Applied Sciences, to monitor underwater vessel noise in the Strait of Georgia.
The hydrophone listening station deployment and monitoring activities are part of the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, which aims to find ways to reduce impacts that shipping may have on at-risk whales in the region. The intention is to develop and trial potential solutions in the coming years, which may include such things as incentives for the use of green vessel technology or changes to operational activities of ocean going vessels.
The newly-deployed listening station is located underwater in the inbound shipping lane and will monitor and report on ambient noise levels, marine mammal detections and passing vessel noise. Working in collaboration with the Pacific Pilotage Authority and the British Columbia Coast Pilots, the intention is to maneuver as many deepsea vessels as possible over designated waypoints to capture associated vessel noise accurately. This information will help scientists understand the different levels of underwater noise created by different types of vessels. It will also allow for the future testing of possible mitigation solutions, for example the cleaning of ship hulls to potentially reduce underwater noise.
“Port Metro Vancouver is mandated by the Canada Marine Act to accommodate Canada’s growing trade demands in a way that is sustainable,” said Duncan Wilson, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Port Metro Vancouver. “We are working together with scientists, shipping industries, conservation and environmental groups, First Nations individuals and government agencies to take proactive action to improve conditions for whales.”
The hydrophone listening station was maneuvered into position yesterday during Ocean Networks Canada’s annual expedition using the exploration vessel, Nautilus and its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules. Ocean Networks Canada is also contributing in-kind support by providing access to its system of underwater cable infrastructure, data storage and data reporting. JASCO Applied Sciences supplied two of its AMAR Observer acoustic monitoring stations and JMesh noise data processing software.