Understanding the marine environment to better protect whales  Oceans Protection Plan


There is growing public and scientific concern over the potential impacts of increasing human activities, such as marine shipping, on the quality of the marine environment and its inhabitants. Under the Oceans Protection Plan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with partners to better understand the impact of environmental stressors on marine mammals.

Acoustic Monitoring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Dalhousie University - $635,000

Understanding the location and movements of the North Atlantic Right Whales is key to helping us protect this iconic species. Funding will support Dalhousie University’s monitoring efforts of North Atlantic Right Whales in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and in Roseway Basin, an area off southern Nova Scotia. The university will deploy gliders that use underwater microphones to detect the presence of the whales and how they move through the areas.

Ocean Noise Modeling

Dalhousie University - $22,000

Establishing the current noise levels in our ocean and how it varies by region, by season and with changes in anthropogenic activities is key to understanding the degree to which noise is a concern for marine mammals. This funding will support Dalhousie University’s development of an ocean noise model capable of predicting the ambient or “natural” underwater noise levels (generated by natural wind and rain) in waters inhabited by whales. Combining the natural underwater noise level with noise generated from human activities will increase our understanding of the total sound pressure levels experienced by whales and their impact on their ability to forage for food and communicate with one another.

Impacts of marine ecosystem variability on the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in the Salish Sea

University of British Columbia - $1.1 million

Access to adequate food sources has been identified as a threat to the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Declines in the Chinook salmon population have reduced the availability of an important food source. The University of British Columbia will examine how changes in the food web affect the abundance and quality of Chinook salmon in critical habitat areas of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

Comprehensive health and condition assessment of Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whale populations

Ocean Wise Conservation Association - $942,000

Despite facing similar threats, the Northern and Southern resident killer whale populations are affected very differently. Ocean Wise will conduct comprehensive health assessments of Northern and Southern resident killer whale populations to better understand the impact of environmental stressors, particularly noise and prey limitation, on the different groups. These studies will help researchers identify potential vulnerabilities of the Southern Resident Killer Whale and contribute to the development of mitigation measures to support the recovery of this iconic species.

Investigations of Anthropogenic Impacts on Southern Resident Killer Whale and their prey

University of Victoria - $935,000

In order to support the recovery efforts of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the University of Victoria will undertake three projects designed to better understand the behaviour and vulnerabilities of the species and their prey. Studies will look at how underwater noise impacts the whales’ ability to use their echolocation to communicate and detect prey. Researchers will also examine how noise impacts Chinook salmon, their primary prey. Work will also focus on understanding the contribution of small vessels to the overall soundscape of Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Underwater Listening Station

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority - $200,000

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program aims to better understand and manage potential impacts to marine mammals from shipping activities. This funding will to continue the operation of an underwater listening station, located under shipping lanes in the Strait of Georgia, to better understand and measure the noise levels of a wide range of different commercial vessel types, to monitor ambient noise over time and to detect how frequently whales are present in this part of the Salish Sea.

July, 2018

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