Hydrophones listen in on ship noise in effort to aid whales

Researchers hope to reduce risk for marine mammals as Port Metro Vancouver prepares for major shipping expansion

Researchers prepare to lower the new hydrophone listening station into position in Georgia Strait.

A hydrophone listening station has been set up in Georgia Strait near the entrance of the Fraser River to gather data on noise made by passing ships and potentially find ways to reduce the threat they pose to whales.

The research project is led by Port Metro Vancouver, which is preparing for steady increases in ship traffic, in partnership with the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada and JASCO Applies Sciences.

It’s hoped better baseline information on noise levels from ships may lead to methods to make them quieter, such as hull and propeller cleaning, or even new vessel designs.

The new listening station will capture vocalizations from whales as well and is positioned to   log sounds of BC Ferries and other vessels in addition to incoming cargo ships.

Deep sea vessels will be deliberately piloted near the hydrophone station to log their noise profiles.

Port Metro Vancouver intends to more than double the container-handling capacity at Deltaport under its planned $2-billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion.

The port has been criticized for failing to adequately address the cumulative impacts of the project on marine mammals in combination with other expected shipping increases.

Vessel noise, potential collisions and pollution are among the risks identified for endangered southern resident killer whales from increased shipping.

Noise from ships are considered to be one of the risk factors for endangered southern resident orcas. beamreach.org photo