Underwater Noise: WWF-Canada goes Green Tech

As an undergraduate student I helped to pay my way through school by driving whale watching boats in BC, and by working as a naturalist on board cruise ships travelling to the remotest corners of the globe. Then as a graduate student, I took time out to work as a researcher at sea and as a visiting scientist back on board those same cruise ships, monitoring penguin colonies and lecturing about whales. I’ve also worked as a deckhand on fishing vessels and other ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Louise ocean noise
WWF’s Dr. Louise Blight at Green Tech in Vancouver. Credit: Linda Nowlan/WWF-

Once you’ve worked on the ocean, it’s never far from your mind. Happily, I recently had a chance to go back to sea in spirit if not in reality, via a conference on sustainable shipping held here in Vancouver. GreenTech is an annual conference held by Green Marine, an organization described on its website as “a voluntary environmental program for the Canadian and American marine industry”.  As a new member of Green Marine’s West Coast Advisory Committee, WWF-Canada was invited to set up a booth in the GreenTech exhibitor’s hall in order to highlight its Pacific conservation work.
While neighbouring exhibitors promoted energy-efficient marine technologies, at-sea pollution monitoring devices, and specialized dive equipment, WWF provided information about the problem of underwater noise. Noise from shipping traffic is increasingly making the world’s oceans louder, and because whales and dolphins use sound  for vital behaviours like communicating, navigating, and feeding, the growing volume of noise from ships and other underwater sources is affecting their ability to survive.
Fin whale surfacing, Sea of Cortez, Mexico {Balaenoptera physalus} © naturepl.com / Mark Carwardine / WWF-Canon
Fin whale surfacing, Sea of Cortez, Mexico {Balaenoptera physalus} © naturepl.com / Mark Carwardine / WWF-Canon

Conference attendees were keen to know more about WWF-Canada’s work to reduce noise pollution in important whale habitat and other areas. As this article illustrates, collaboration with the shipping industry is important as the marine sector can work in partnership toward changes that benefit the ocean’s whales. Reducing underwater noise can’t be realized in the Pacific, or elsewhere, without the maritime industry’s help.