Vancouver Launches Underwater Listening Station to Protect Whales

Port Metro Vancouver, with support from the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada and JASCO Applied Sciences, has deployed a hydrophone listening station that will monitor underwater vessel noise in the Strait of Georgia. Underwater noise has been identified as a key threat to at-risk whales.

The hydrophone listening station deployment and monitoring activities are part of the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program. The program aims to better understand and manage the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.

“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 newly deployed listening station is located under water in the inbound shipping lane of the Strait of Georgia, and will be monitoring and reporting 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 deep sea vessels as possible over designated way-points in order 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. 

The hydrophone listening station was maneuvered into position yesterday during Ocean Networks Canada’s annual expedition using the exploration vessel, Nautilus and its ROV (remotely operated vehicle) Jason. 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.

“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 CEO of Ocean Networks Canada. 

The ECHO Program’s goal is to find ways to reduce impacts that shipping may have on at-risk whales in our 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.

Port Metro Vancouver is recognized globally as a leader in sustainability, including by the likes of Sir Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room. In the first half of 2015 the port authority announced initiatives such as shore power for container vessels and the winners of the Blue Circle Award, the latter of which recognizes environmental stewardship of marine carriers as part of the EcoAction program. Port Metro Vancouver was also recognized as a responsible leader in sustainability for the second year in a row by Corporate Knights.



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