GBEAR, along with a consortium of local partners, currently supports six hydrophones (underwater microphones) deployed in Heiltsuk territory that allow for year-round monitoring of marine mammals. Our hydrophones play a critical role in ongoing conservation research and community-based marine planning as we measure changes in ocean noise over time and study the impacts on marine life from commercial shipping traffic. Listen to our Dearth Island hydrophone below:
This hydrophone is located on Dearth Island, about 15 kilometres from Bella Bella, and listens in to what’s happening below the surface in Seaforth and Spiller Channels. Seaforth Channel is part of the Inside Passage and most tugs, ferries, and fishing boats travelling north pass by here. At its outlet to the west lies Milbanke Sound, which is exposed to the open Pacific Ocean and is one of the main access points to the Inside Passage. This is a good location for a hydrophone as whales use this channel to travel between the inner and outer coastal waters quite frequently. Resident killer whales are heard here during the summer, and transient killer whales can be heard throughout the year.
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 55,000 hours of recordings including humpback whale song, northern resident and transient killer whale vocalizations and Pacific white-sided dolphin chatter.
This network enables us to monitor changes in ambient ocean noise and analyze the potential effects of increased acoustic activity from supertankers on cetaceans. In addition, we can track killer whale traffic along the B.C. coast, document humpback whale song in northern waters, supplement sightings data from Coastal Guardian Watchmen and participate in a number of recovery measures to support marine species at risk.
Live audio from our hydrophones is broadcasted online for listeners around the world and via FM radio to the community of Bella Bella. Students at the Bella Bella Community School also use the hydrophones to learn more about their local marine environment as a part of the SEAS Community Initiative. In-school classroom programming is paired with hands-on field trips for elementary and high school students. Additionally, interested high school students have the opportunity to participate in a summer internship program and gain experience in all aspects of the network including fieldwork and data analysis. These activities support our core belief that the long-term success of the Great Bear Sea Hydrophone Network and other conservation efforts is reliant on today’s youth.