The coast of British Columbia is home to many marine mammal species, all of which use sound for a wide range of survival and social behaviours. Some species, such as resident orcas and seals live in confined regions of the marine habitat throughout the year, while others, such as sea lions, humpback whales, grey whales and rarely observed blue whales migrate through the coastal and continental shelf waters over seasonal and longer time scales. Quality recordings from underwater hydrophones are a key research tool in the assessment of marine mammal behaviour, abundance and habitat utilization. Although hydrophones have been installed in several key locations along the BC coast, there is no standardization in either hardware or data quality. And for the most part, only a small fraction of the recorded data are readily available to marine managers, the research community and the general public.
In collaboration with several partners, Ocean Networks Canada is developing an initiative to establish a coordinated network of acoustic hydrophones along the entire coast of British Columbia. In support of this vision, Ocean Networks Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium organized a workshop on 16 June 2014, which gathered many of the existing hydrophone operators in BC. The initial discussion was focused on formulating a vision and roadmap for the comprehensive BC Hydrophone Network.
In July, following the initial workshop meeting, a group of researchers met at Ocean Networks Canada to present and discuss the status of their efforts to apply advanced mathematical methods to the analysis of acoustic data for the identification and tracking of marine mammals and ships. This research-oriented group was very enthusiastic about the idea of enhancing and integrating a comprehensive BC Hydrophone Network.
The next stages of the initiative will include holding a series of meetings to flesh out the research objectives, the hardware issues and data management. They will also identify how a BC Hydrophone Network can contribute to sound marine management policy.
If you have direct interest in participating in the discussion, please contact Dr. Richard Dewey, the Associate Director, Science Services (Ocean Networks Canada).