, WCS Canada
© WCS Canada

Documenting the impacts of underwater noise

Addressing impacts from shipping and climate change in the western Arctic

Sound is vital to the survival of marine mammals and other species, but increased vessel traffic will lead to increased noise pollution. We use acoustic monitoring to collect information on natural underwater sound levels, species presence and vocal behaviours, and the impacts of vessel noise.

Our impact

  • We documented the potential impact of increased ship noise on whales and seals in the Arctic, where longer ice-free seasons will likely lead to a large increase in ship traffic.
  • We built a scientific case for measures such as ship speed reductions or shifting sea lanes to help whales.
  • Our global assessment of noise in the Arctic marine environment for the Arctic Council’s PAME (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment) working group is being used to find international solutions to address increasing noise in the Arctic.

We are working in cooperation with Inuvialuit communities. Our research helps provide guidance and recommendations on marine mammal conservation to local communities, co-management institutions and other decision-makers.

Stories and op-eds

Scouting for Sound in the Arctic Depths
2023-11-15

Scouting for Sound in the Arctic Depths

Our Western Arctic team is tracking the performance of a new listening device – a “glider” that can roam beneath the water’s surface picking up sounds and other ocean state information.
William Halliday
Worth the wait: Encountering bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic
2023-03-20

Worth the wait: Encountering bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic

We arrived in Igloolik hoping to find community members with boats to hire to take us out to find bowhead whales.
Taking it slow can help reduce impacts of Arctic shipping on whales
2018-08-18

Taking it slow can help reduce impacts of Arctic shipping on whales

Significantly increased ship traffic is altering the submarine calm of one of the quietest places on Earth.

Media coverage

'Like being at a loud rock concert': study looks at how ship noise affects Arctic marine mammals

"Whales are swimming faster when ships are close by ... and we're finding changes in the sound that they're making in their vocalizations," said William Halliday, the lead researcher for the study.
2023-12-26 | CBC