Featured Image Credit: Beam Reach
By now, we’re all too aware of just how many sounds are in the ocean. Some of them are natural, but there’s a growing number of loud human-created noises echoing around the water.
As you can imagine, since animals rely on sounds a lot, for things like communication, navigating, and even hunting… those big sounds made by ships, exploration, and sonars disrupt and sometimes seriously upset their way of life.
Now, researchers are looking towards British Columbia to conduct a little bit of an experiment.
During the upcoming months of August through October 2017, 900 vessels of varying types are predicted to travel through Haro Strait, a channel separating Vancouver Island from the San Juan Islands in Washington state. It’s not only reportedly a hot spot for vessel noise disturbance, but it’s also a very important summer feeding area for the native population of orcas.
Because of this, officials are asking as many vessels as possible to slow down!
Like, way down. They believe by traveling through the water at a lessened speed 11 knots (just over 12 miles per hour), the noises will be seriously reduced. Since many cargo and container ships have an average of 24 knots (27 mph), they hope that more than half the speed will mean more than half the noise pollution.
The intended distance of the trial is 16.6 nautical miles inbound, 14.9 nautical miles outbound.
The team will be using hydrophones to listen out for just how much noise the slowed traffic is causing, as opposed to the normal levels of sound. As well as keeping an eye (or, rather, an ear) out for the orcas who live there.
The native population of orcas are classified as Southern Resident Killer Whales, and currently fall under the Endangered Species Act with only a known 78 individuals. While noise pollution isn’t the only threat that they face— it is one of them, and a large one.
So far, around 54 marine shipping companies are signed up to take part in the voluntary trial, which is being planned and coordinated by the ECHO Program. But they’re hoping for participation from all vessels, because it will directly affect their ability to analyze just how effective the trial was.
Port authority chief executive officer, Robin Silvester, has said “We know that impacts to vessel schedules can be costly,” but ultimately, this type of research will help them know exactly what measures to put into place so that they can reduce further noise pollution, and help orcas— as well as all local marine life.