Humpback Whale

Ocean Wise has announced a new method to help protect whales from ship disturbances and collisions in BC’s waters: hydrophones. These underwater microphones will be used to alert nearby commercial mariners of whale presence via the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS).

This important new initiative will help mariners to determine when to slow down, re-route, or stop to avoid whale disturbance and injury.

Northern Resident Pod

Whales are social creatures and use calls, clicks, whistles, and echolocation to communicate, hunt for food, and locate each other. By listening for whale sounds, sensitive hydrophones can detect their presence. Via the Whale Report Alert System, the hydrophones will send an alert to any large commercial vessels nearby.

Hydrophones dramatically improve whale detection capabilities in remote areas, especially when visibility is low (in poor weather or at night), or when cetaceans are submerged and not visible at the surface.

Hydrophone array, BC
[Deployment of hydrophone array; photo courtesy of JASCO Applied Sciences]

This exciting new method of generating alerts for the Whale Report Alert System is a first. This integration solidifies the WRAS as a critical tool for reducing impact on marine mammals in waters on the Pacific Coast. — Dr. Chloe Robinson, Director of the Ocean Wise Whales Initiative

The hydrophone array being used for this implementation is based at the Boundary Pass Underwater Listening Station, commissioned in 2020 by Transport Canada.

The station is located below a major shipping lane and helps to not only monitor sound levels of vessels coming in and out of the Port of Vancouver but can also listen to detect marine mammals. The station is within the designated critical habitat of the endangered southern resident killer whales.

Killer Whales

Ocean Wise expects the use of hydrophones to result in more alerts generated via WRAS, to increase both mariner awareness of whale presence and to reduce potential vessel strikes.

The public is still encouraged to report whale sightings via the WhaleReport App. The Whale Report Alert System is part of the Ocean Wise Sightings Network. Visit Ocean Wise online for more info.

About Ocean Wise

Ocean Wise is a global conservation organization that aims to build communities that take meaningful action to protect and restore our oceans. Through research, education, innovation, and collaboration, they are turning the tide on three major ocean challenges: plastic pollution, overfishing and climate change. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC (with staff in Canada, the United States, and Chile), Ocean Wise reaches over two dozen countries around the globe.

Except where expressly mentioned, images courtesy of Ocean Wise Research.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.