Research News

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 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) 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 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 Chief Executive Officer of ONC.

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.

About Port Metro Vancouver

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and the third largest tonnage port in North America, responsible for Canada’s trade with more than 160 world economies. Located in a naturally beautiful setting on Canada’s west coast, Port Metro Vancouver is responsible for the efficient and reliable movement of goods and passengers, and integrates environmental, social and economic sustainability initiatives into all areas of port operations. Port Metro Vancouver is committed to meaningful engagement with the communities in which it operates and the shared obligation to improve the quality of life for Canadians. Enabling the trade of approximately $187 billion in goods annually, the port generates an estimated 100,000 jobs, $6.1 billion in wages, and $9.7 billion in GDP across Canada. As a non-shareholder, financially self-sufficient corporation established by the Government of Canada, Port Metro Vancouver operates pursuant to the Canada Marine Act and is accountable to the elected federal Minister of Transport. About Ocean Networks Canada:

The University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) manages and operates world leading cabled ocean observatories, NEPTUNE and VENUS, off the coast of southern British Columbia and a Cambridge Bay observatory in the Canadian Arctic. The observatories are unique on the global stage because their fixed infrastructure makes data available, free and in realtime, from over 200 undersea instruments distributed across the most diverse ocean environments found anywhere on Earth. Long-term continuous monitoring is helping us better understand the global ocean, including: earthquakes, tsunamis and underwater landslides; the impact of human induced noise on marine mammals; the way that offshore gas hydrates change as climate changes; understanding the volcanic ridges where life thrives on chemistry, and huge amounts of very, very hot water spewing into the ocean 24/7.


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