Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2015, page 4

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Hydroplane station in Strait of Georgia to monitor shipping noise and whales

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun

Port Metro Vancouver and the University of Victoria's Ocean Networks Canada have deployed a hydrophone station in the inbound shipping lane in the Strait of Georgia to monitor marine mammals and vessel traffic noise.

Port Metro Vancouver has deployed the hydrophone with support from the University of Victoria's Ocean Networks Canada and JASCO Applied Sciences. The station joins a long list of similar instruments all along the B.C. coast that monitor the impact of increasing shipping on marine life, especially at-risk whales.

Carrie Brown, the port's manager of environmental programs, said Tuesday that the hydrophone is located south-west of the main arm of the Fraser River within port jurisdictional waters to capture the noise from inbound port traffic and BC Ferries. Ocean Networks Canada already has a subsea cable at the site.

The hope is to establish baseline information to track noise levels and to identify noise levels from specific ships. The results could lead to simple mitigation measures such as hull and propeller cleaning, shore-based financial incentives, and information for regulatory agencies and for naval architects to build quieter ships.

The hydrophone is part of the $1.5-million portled En-hancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program. Port Metro Vancouver is in the midst of a federal environmental review of the planned $2-billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2 container expansion project in South Delta and

has been criticized for not examining the environmental impact of a range of marine issues that extend well beyond the project's immediate footprint.

Duncan Wilson, vice-president of corporate social responsibility, said that while the port's position on that issue hasn't changed, the hydrophone program will offer a broad range of information on shipping impacts -- not just those of the port. He noted the port receives 3,000 vessels per year, compared with "tens of thousands of ferry trips, tugs and yachts and other vessels that are out there."

Endangered southern resident killer whales are thought to be at risk from factors such as vessel noise, pollution, harassment from whale watchers, and lack of chinook salmon. Shipping also increases the chances of whales being struck and killed at the water surface, evidenced by a dead fin whale on the bow of a cruise ship in Vancouver last May.

The planned new terminal at Roberts Bank would be located next to the existing Deltaport and Westshore Ter-minals and would provide an additional 2.4 million units of container capacity per year. In 2014, Port Metro Vancouver moved the equivalent of 2.9 million 20-foot container units.

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Long-running war between the whales and the United States Navy is over

A federal judge approved a legal settlement that limits the use of sonar and other underwater explosives that can inadvertently harm whales and dolphins. For marine mammals, the ping of sonar or the muffled blast of underwater detonations can be deafening and even deadly.

The settlement ends litigation brought by environmental groups against the Navy over its use of sonar in important feeding grounds for whales off the Southern California coast near Santa Catalina, San Clemente, and San Nicolas Islands, as well as waters around Hawaii, including Maui, Molokai, and the Big Island.

"The settlement protects some of the most important are-as for marine mammals that are sensitive to sonar," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several groups involved in the litigation. "It's a great benefit to the whales and lets the Navy fulfill its training needs."

The whale too big for its own good

It's the first time the Navy has acknowledged that it is possible to protect marine mammal habitat without hindering its training regimen--abandoning its previous stance that putting limitations on sonar testing and exercises wasn't feasible, Earthjustice lead counsel David Henkin said.

"This sets a precedent for future approvals of Navy activities, not only here in Hawaii and Southern California, but everywhere the Navy conducts its activities," Henkin said in an email.

A 2013 Navy report estimated that over the subsequent five years (2014 through 2019), sonar testing, underwater detonations, missile launches, anti-submarine warfare, and ship strikes could kill up to 155 whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions and permanently injure more than 2,000 animals. The Navy also estimated that 9 million in-cidents of marine mammal disturbances could alter feeding and breeding activities in the 120,000-square-mile Southern California testing zone.

Whales and dolphins defeat navy in high-stakes war games

The National Marine Fisheries Service approved the Navy's testing plans in 2013, finding the activities would have a "negligible impact" on marine mammals. But in April, a U.S. district court judge in Hawaii ruled that the agency violated environmental laws by approving the Navy's plan.

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