Noise pollution research must be combined with tangible goals to help endangered killer whales

The federal government is investing $3.1 million in projects aimed at reducing underwater noise from ships to protect marine mammals like the southern resident killer whales.

These endangered whales use echolocation, and the increased tanker traffic caused by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project will make it more difficult for them to hunt, communicate and navigate.

the silent boat initiative it is one of eight measures developed to address the concerns of indigenous communities about TMX. As part of a previously announced $26 million investment over five years, the $3.1 million will support 22 projects, including the development of real-time tools to track underwater noise from marine vessels, detect marine mammals and alert nearby vessels. , among other things.

Announced on August 11, these investments in investigative technology are welcome, but tangible results and benchmarks are consistently missing from these types of announcements, said Christianne Wilhelmson, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance. Canadian National Observer.

“There is always a danger here if you spend a lot of money on research…and at the end of the day, nothing changes for the southern resident killer whales,” Wilhelmson said.

While Canada is leading the conversation on the international stage about reducing noise from marine vessels, “if the government is truly committed to killer whales, in particular, it needs to stop ignoring the panels that tell them the projects will absolutely harm the species,” Wilhelmson said.

She points to the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, a proposed shipping terminal in Delta, BC, as an example. A review panel determined that the project would result in “significant adverse and cumulative effects on wetlands” and wildlife species, including southern resident killer whales. A final decision on its approval is still pending.

“We hope that they will not approve [it]but this government has just convinced itself that it can have these massive developments, that will increase shipping, and protect orcas, and those two things serve opposite purposes,” he said.

New noise reduction projects announced last week by Transport Canada will explore and test technical solutions that can be used to design quieter vessels and modernize existing ones, Transport Canada spokesman Sau Sau Lui said. Canadian National Observer in an emailed statement. This is based on the Whales Initiativea program designed to “more than mitigate the potential impacts of TMX by taking a regional approach to addressing underwater noise from ships,” the statement says.

Measures implemented through the Whales Initiative include increasing the distance vessels must maintain from all killer whales from 200 meters to 400 meters in certain areas, implementing a seasonal slowdown area off Swiftsure Bank near West Vancouver Island, educating recreational boaters on how to protect killer whales and more.

The federal government is investing $3.1 million in projects aimed at reducing underwater noise from ships to protect marine mammals like the southern resident killer whales.

While these actions are “significant in their own way,” the question of how to deal with the cumulative impacts of shipping remains unanswered, said Hussein Alidina, senior marine conservation specialist at World Wildlife Fund.

“More than mitigate” suggests that government efforts should reduce the overall noise level from human activities in the Salish Sea, but there are no tangible, ecologically significant targets for reducing noise levels, Alidina said.

“Where are the targets for noise reduction? What are the plans to what level are we going to reduce, where are the deadlines and where are the actions? she asked her. “None of that is articulated right now and is still being evaluated. But we cannot continue evaluating, we have problems to solve”.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans previously received $9.2 million over three years to develop and implement a compensation program to “demonstrate that the effects of underwater noise and strike risk from [TMX]sea-related ocean shipments have been addressed,” according to a January DFO memo obtained by Canadian National Observer through a federal access to information request.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer

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