Tankers – good for the economy, not so much so for the whales.

P hoto by Ralph Hocken | flickr.com
Photo by Ralph Hocken | flickr.com

The proposed Northern Gateway would make it easier for transport, but would have a major effect on the whales that inhabit the proposed area. If the Northern Gateway is approved, the total underwater noise from tankers could increase 10-fold, according to the Center for Marine Science and Technology director, Christine Erbe.

Erbe and her colleagues researched underwater noise and its impacts on marine environment. They found that this level of noise increase could have extremely detrimental impacts on whales, who rely on sound to hunt, communicate and navigate.

In February 2011, a young killer whale was found washed up dead in the state Washington. It was later found that this whale belonged from an endangered pod that resided in the south. It is suspected that  loud naval sonar or an underwater explosion caused the animal to be confused, lose it’s pod, and eventually pass away.

Many scientists and environmentalists have suggested that noise reduction and protection of whales from harmful noise levels can be done inexpensively. Vancouver Aquarium’s senior marine mammal researcher Lance Barrett-Lennard suggests using vibration-absorbing engine mounts and technology help the sound decrease. Erbe suggests ‘baseline’ information can be obtained to record whales and ship traffic so future can be better predicted.

The Canadian government needs to step up and help protect our ocean’s wildlife. If there is an easy fix to this solution, doesn’t it make you wonder why it isn’t already implemented?

Yoko Lu