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Vancouver reduces harbor rates for quiet ships

News, Shipping Comments Off on Vancouver reduces harbor rates for quiet ships

The Port of Vancouver has enacted a new incentive program to encourage tankers and other ships to adopt noise-quieting technologies.  Beginning on January 1, 2017, ships that have achieved any one of three widely recognized noise-reduction criteria will receive a 47% discount on harbor fees. Ships that have adapted wake flow or cavitation noise technologies will receive a smaller 23% discount.


This is great news, and we encourage other ports to follow in Vancouver’s enlightened footsteps. It is entirely possible to stop the steady increases in global shipping noise, and even to reverse these trends of the past few decades. Twenty years from now, our oceans can be quieter than they are today, and the isolated pockets still free of humanity’s noise footprints could expand, providing new hope for the world’s ocean creatures.

New maps track ships drowning out whale communication

Effects of Noise on Wildlife, Ocean Comments Off on New maps track ships drowning out whale communication

Ongoing research in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is providing ever more compelling visualizations of shipping noise and the much quieter calls of whales in the area. Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, NMFS, and Cornell have deployed networks of sound recorders, which allow them to track individual whales and ships and see how their sounds interact.  The Sanctuary, which contains the shipping lanes into Boston harbor, is one of the more urbanized ocean environments to be closely studied thus far.  Here, we see four panels; the top left is wind noise, bottom left is right whales, and the right hand ones show that two ships completely drown out the whales as they pass through the area. “Every day, five to six large ships move into and out of Boston, and their acoustic footprint can last for hours.” says Cornell’s Chris Clark. “As a result, the Right whales trying to make a living off Boston are losing about 80 percent of their opportunities to keep in contact every day, day after day, month after month, year after year.”

From; click to read source article

From; click to read source article

“Right whales are long-lived animals. When they were kids and teenagers, their world was normal,” Clark says. “Acoustic habitat loss is a stressor and there are multiple stressors on a species.” His team has found that the whales often no longer bother answering calls from their peers. In this world of constant noise, they wouldn’t be heard anyway. “Their social network is constantly ripped apart,” says Clark. “In one area, noise levels are now 105 decibel where they should be 75.” Other researchers from the Right Whale Consortium found that the animals show dramatic loss in vital body fat: In some individuals, the blubber layer is thinner than normal, hinting at the possibility that they no longer find enough food due to the noise.

At conferences over the past year, project scientists have shared compelling animated sequences showing similar patterns; so far, only still images are available online. UPDATE! A recent article on this work in the journal Science (from which the Clark quotes above were drawn) has a link to a good video (note: the video has minimal interpretation. I find the upper left graph most compelling: it shows the whale call (in blue), loud near the whale and fainter as the cone spreads out; the red disc is the noise from the ship, gradually getting louder than the whale calls, until it drowns out the whale everywhere except very nearby). For more on this important research, see this recent article which contains two stills from a different animation, this section of the Stellwagen website on the passive acoustic monitoring program,  this movie which visualizes the movements and sounds of two nearby and some more distant humpback whales, and hear this local radio piece on the Stellwagen research.

BC Oil Tanker Port Planned in Rare Acoustically Quiet Coastal Zone

News, Ocean Comments Off on BC Oil Tanker Port Planned in Rare Acoustically Quiet Coastal Zone

Plans to build a pipeline to move the fruits of Alberta’s oil fields and oil sands to the deepwater port of Kitimat, in order to ship it to Asia, are spurring widespread concerns among residents and researchers in northern British Columbia. In addition to fears of a tanker accident and rural resistence to the pipeline, University of BC biologist Rob Williams stresses the noise impact of increased tanker traffic. “Caamano Sound may be one of the last chances we have on this coastline to protect an acoustically quiet sanctuary for whales,” says Williams. “We don’t exactly know why this area is so rich, but there are some long, narrow channels that serve as bottlenecks for food, making it easier for whales to feed.” The researcher has been using acoustic monitors to gauge the level of underwater shipping noise, known to have an impact on the ability of toothed mammals, such as orcas and dolphins, to use echolocation for finding food. A detailed feature article in the Vancouver weekly The Georgia Strait provides an in-depth look at the plans and at the hurdles that must be crossed to bring it to fruition. Source:, 2/5/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Increasing Ocean Acidification Will Allow Sound/Noise to Travel Further

Ocean, Science Comments Off on Increasing Ocean Acidification Will Allow Sound/Noise to Travel Further

AEI laymans summary of the following paper:
Hester, Peltzer, Kirkwood, Brewer. Unanticipated consequences of ocean acidification: A noisier ocean at lower pH. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 35, L19601.

This is a theoretical, rather than field research, study that calculates the likely current and future decreases in sound absorption caused by increasing ocean acidity (lower pH). The bottom line result is sobering for anyone who is already concerned about the rising tide of ambient noise in the world’s oceans. Increasing shipping noise, in particular, is reducing the effective communication ranges of great whales and creating an urbanized environment in many coastal areas. This research suggests that the well-documented increases in ocean acidification are already helping sound to travel further, with dramatic increases likely in coming decades.

The paper considers four causes of increasing ocean acidity, including deposition of CO2, Nitrogen, and Sulphur, and some chemical effects of warming (which itself contributes in a much smaller way to decreased sound absorption). The net result is that it appears likely that low- and mid-frequency sound absorption has already decreased by 10-15% as ocean pH has gone down by .12; Read the rest of this entry »

US Urges IMO to Consider Shipping Noise Impacts

Ocean 2 Comments »

The annual meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection committee included consideration of two issues related to shipping noise. The Committee invited countries to submit proposals to reduce environmental impacts of increasing tourist-related shipping in Antarctic waters, after an environmental consortium the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition raised the issue in a paper that highlighted several accidents and fuel spills that took place in a 13-month period. While most of the concern at this point is focused on contaminating the pristine waters and coastlines, the relative “natural quiet” in Antarctic waters has also been noted, with the area offering some of the best possibilities for protecting the acoustic integrity of ocean habitat. Read the rest of this entry »