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Listening station to study impact of ship noise on whales
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, 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.
September 15, 2015

September 15, 2015 Vancouver, B.C.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA), 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.

Orcas in the Strait of Georgia, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. (Credit: BeamReach.org)

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.

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 being deployed off the E/V Nautilus.

The hydrophone listening station was manoeuvred into position on September 14 during Ocean Networks Canada’s annual expedition using the exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus and its ROV (remotely operated vehicle) 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, as well as the PortListen and PAMView data processing programs.

The ECHO listening station ready for deployment.

“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 the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to deliver this world class sound detection, analysis, and reporting system,” said Kate Moran, President and Chief Executive Officer of ONC.

“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,” said Duncan Wilson, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Port of Vancouver.

Underwater_Noise_Infographic_PRINT- FINAL[1].png

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

Download ECHO listening platform recordings.

Listen to underwater sounds captured by Ocean Networks Canada hydrophones

More information about Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Echo Program


Underwater Noise Infographic by Port of Vancouver (PDF)

Hydrophones 101 by Ocean Networks Canada (PDF)
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