For many species, the underwater world is defined by sound. Humpback whales, killer whales, dolphins, herring and rockfish are just a few of the marine species that use sound to assist in feeding and maintaining social structures. The volume of shipping and recreational vessel traffic has grown rapidly in the Great Bear, and with it the volume of underwater noise that pollutes the acoustic world on which these species depend.
The Great Bear Sea Hydrophone Network (GBHN) is a joint project between Great Bear Education and Research, the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department and Pacific Wild. We monitor whale and dolphin sounds as well as ocean noise in Heiltsuk Nation territory, on the central coast of B.C., using a network of hydrophones (underwater microphones). Long-term monitoring helps us to understand which areas whales and dolphins use most, and how ambient noise levels are changing in different environments over time. It also helps us to assess where there may be conflicts between whales and vessel traffic. Data from the network can be used in marine planning and management as well as acoustic research on a variety of habitats and species, including fish.
We are in the process of transitioning from live streaming audio to autonomous recorders donated by JASCO Applied Sciences in Victoria, BC. These new systems will make our recordings much more reliable and consistent, and reduce time and resources spent on maintenance so that we can focus more on research outcomes.
RESEARCH: The data collected from year-round live acoustic monitoring create long-term analysis capacity, tracking how a variety of marine mammal species utilize the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest. Since the first hydrophone was installed in 2011, we have amassed over 75,000 hours of recordings including humpback whale song, northern resident and transient killer whale vocalizations and Pacific white-sided dolphin chatter.
Our recordings are used by researchers investigating fish noise and killer whale habitat use, and in marine resource management.
COLLABORATION: We are every grateful to work within an amazing community of cetacean researchers in B.C. These are the partners, advisors, and collaborators who have made this program possible: Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department and JASCO Applied Sciences, Ocean Networks Canada, researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station, Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard at the University of British Columbia, researchers in the Juanes Lab at the University of Victoria, Cetacealab, Orcalab, the Marine Education and Research Society, and the BC Cetacean Sightings Network.
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