Vancouver Port to lead research on effects of ship noise on orcas
A new orca whale calf is seen near Sooke, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (Center for Whale Research, Dave Ellifrit)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 20, 2017 12:43PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- A program led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority will examine how endangered southern resident killer whales respond to slower vessel speeds and reduced underwater noise in a key summer feeding area off southern British Columbia.
The port authority says 54 marine shipping companies have signed up to take part in the voluntary study between August and October in Haro Strait, the channel separating Vancouver Island from the San Juan Islands in Washington state.
The authority says in a news release that the ships represent a significant proportion of the large commercial vessels moving through Haro Strait.
During the research trial, vessel operators will be asked to travel over underwater listening stations at a speed of 11 knots, slower than the typical operating speeds, while the stations also monitor for the presence of whales.
About 900 deep sea vessels are expected to travel through Haro Strait during the study period.
The port authority says existing data on underwater vessel noise shows it can interfere with killer whale echolocation clicks, calls and whistles, affecting the ability to hunt, navigate and communicate.
Port authority chief executive officer Robin Silvester says the industry's commitment to the study shows that shipping companies are focused on ensuring a healthy marine environment.
"We know that impacts to vessel schedules can be costly, ... but we also know the more vessels that participate in the trial, the more robust the scientific analysis will be, and the greater the opportunity for ... evidence-based decision making about future vessel noise management measures," Silvester says in the news release.