Orcasound -- Listen for Whales

Scott and Val Veirs, Orcasound Hydrophone Network

ASA, Victoria, BC, Nov 5-9, 2018
Slides at: orcasound.net/press

Orcasound's network, new nodes and app

15 years of citizen scientists listening for whales in the Salish Sea

Thanks to all the backers of the 2017 Kickstarter, plus our app key developers/designers to date:
Paul Cretu, Skander Mzali, Steve Hicks, Tyler Crisafulli, Nóra Mészáros, and Liam Reese

Listen for whales at live.orcasound.net!


Potential impacts of noise on southern resident killer whales (SRKWs)

  1. Stranding (observed in some other toothed whales, but not SRKWs)
  2. Deafening (permanent or temporary)
    • What explosives were used near SRKWs during the capture era, and previously?
    • Pile driving:
    • MFA sonar: (HMS Ottawa, 2012)
    • Naval detonations: (HMS Ottawa, 2012)
  3. Masking (mostly by vessels)
  4. Behavioral change (can also be due to physical proximity or interference)
  5. Stress (e.g. from chronic noise)
Right whale stress fell after 9/11 decreased ship noise in 2001 (Rolland et al., 2012)

We know: SRKWs respond to noise

2003: U.S. Navy uses sonar in Haro Strait with SRKW behavior change observed by Center for Whale Research

2009: SRKWs "speak up" in noise from nearby boats (Holt, Noren, Veirs, Emmons & Veirs)

Vessel noise can mask both calls & clicks

Frequencies of vessel noise overlap with SRKW hearing and signals

Veirs, Veirs, & Wood (2016, PeerJ)

Typical ship:

Squeaky ship:

It's already too loud!

  1. Communication space reduced: 75% for NRKWs (Miller+2006); 94-98% for SRKW by Haro ships (Veirs+2011)
  2. Foraging space reduced 58-89% by Haro ships (Veirs+2011)
  3. See also Holt, 2008 and Lacy+2017.

We also know:

  1. Ships dominate the Haro Strait soundscape
  2. Ships transit Haro Strait ~20 times/day
  3. Boats elevate mean ambient noise levels ~2 dB during summer

The Good News: we have many options to "more than mitigate" vessel noise.

Listen for whales

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New player was released to the public on November 1. Stay tuned for more features coming this winter at: beta.orcasound.net