Protecting Quiet Oceans
Canada’s Northeast Pacific contains some of BC’s quietest ocean coastline and some of the world’s richest cold-water seas. Known as the Great Bear Sea, these waters are home to magnificent marine mammals – some of whose populations are at risk, while others are recovering at a remarkable rate.
Canada's Pacific North Coast
Resident orca whales live here year-round in tightly knit family pods. The second-largest animal on the planet – the elusive fin whale - visits to feed in these nutrient rich seas. Male humpback whales sing their mysterious songs in the deep fjords of the Great Bear Sea. Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, sea lions, seals and a wealth of other marine species are also part of this thriving and complex ocean ecosystem.
Cetaceans in the Great Bear Sea
Why is sound important to marine life?It’s easy to imagine that below the surface, the ocean is a deep and silent space. But life underwater is naturally filled with sound. Grunts, coughs and clicks of fish, cries of orca and songs of humpbacks all form a part of the natural soundscape of British Columbia’s coastal waters. Sound, unlike light, travels remarkably well underwater. That’s why fish, whales, dolphins and other marine species have evolved to largely use sound instead of sight to navigate, avoid predators, forage for food and find mates.
Noise Pollution: A disturbing trendAround the world, however, ocean listeners are discovering that our seas are becoming noisier. Noise pollution from some of the following types of human activities is affecting marine species.
- Boat traffic
- Navy sonar
- Port construction
- Oil and gas exploration
- Underwater seismic testing for mining
Why Ocean Noise Matters
Noise pollution, like other pollution, may negatively affect marine species, potentially causing changes in their behaviour that could lead to long term effects on their populations.
Why is noise pollution a problem?
- Sudden and very loud noise can startle nearby marine animals and cause hearing damage.
- Continuous noise can mask the sounds that animals use to communicate with one another and disrupt activities such as feeding and socializing.
What is WWF doing?
1. ScienceWWF is working with leading scientists to:
- Map and better understand where noise pollution is a problem and how it may be impacting critical habitats for orca, humpback and fin whales.
- Improve monitoring of noise on the Pacific coast.
2. ManagementWWF is working with government and industry to work toward solutions such as:
- Reducing noise levels in critical whale habitats.
- Exploring opportunities to establish quiet areas for marine species.
- Embracing greener technology, such as quieter ships.
- Improving management activities in our oceans to reduce their accumulated noise footprint.
- WWF is advocating for national regulation of the amount of noise, like other pollution, that can be released into the ocean.