Environment: Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver: Underwater Listening Station Launched to Better Understand Impact of Ship Noise on At-Risk Whales 
Port Metro Vancouver, with support from the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada, has deployed a hydrophone listening station that will monitor underwater vessel noise in the Strait of Georgia. Underwater noise has been identified as a 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 ECHO Program’s goal is 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.