Scientists to Study Ship Noise Impact on Marine Life

Source: Port Metro Vancouver

Published Sep 16, 2015 7:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

Port Metro Vancouver has partnered with the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) and JASCO Applied Sciences to deploy a hydrophone listening station in Canada’s Strait of Georgia. The listening station will monitor underwater noise caused by shipping vessels, which has been identified as a threat to whales.

The hydrophone listening station project is part of the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, which aims to manage the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales.

The hydrophones have been installed about 170 meters below a Strait of Georgia inbound shipping lane, and monitors ambient noise levels, marine mammal detections and passing vessel noise. Working with the Pacific Pilotage Authority and the British Columbia Coast Pilots, the aim is to reroute as many commercial vessels as possible over designated areas to accurately capture vessel noise.

Researchers say that capturing the noise will aid them to understanding the different levels of underwater noise created by various types of vessels and their effects on marine life.

Underwater noise, for instance, has been identified as a threat to the orcas in the region. Orcas communicate with each other with a variety of clicks, chirps, squeaks and whistles and also use echolocation to locate prey and navigate. Port Metro Vancouver hopes to determine short and long-term impacts noise pollution has on orcas in terms of behavioral changes or any reductions in population health.

The hydrophone listening station was maneuvered into position on September 14 during Ocean Networks Canada’s annual expedition using the exploration vessel, Nautilus and its ROV Hercules­.

“Monitoring and understanding sound and its impact on marine mammals is a crucial aspect of good ocean management. Ocean Networks Canada is delighted to be partnering with JASCO and Port Metro Vancouver to deliver this world class sound detection, analysis, and reporting system,” said Kate Moran, President and Chief Executive Officer of ONC.