ECHO Program research, reports, and peer-reviewed papers

The world-leading science produced by the ECHO Program and its partners is helping government, the port authority, and the broader national and international marine industry better understand how to reduce the impacts of marine shipping on at-risk whales.

While the ECHO Program’s focus is on acoustic disturbance – one of the four key threats identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s facing at-risk whales in the region – the ECHO Program also supports other threat reduction projects such as those focused on physical disturbances and environmental contaminants.

Below you’ll find a list of ECHO Program research studies, peer-reviewed papers, and annual reports detailing ongoing or completed projects and initiatives. For summaries of the ECHO Program’s voluntary underwater noise reduction initiatives, see the ECHO Program projects and initiatives page.

Paper name

Journal

Year

Potential benefits of vessel slowdowns on endangered southern resident killer whales Frontiers in Marine Science 2019
Slowing deep-sea commercial vessels reduces underwater radiated noise The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2019
Educating Mariners: Whales in our Waters tutorial Journal of Ocean Technology 2010

Study name

Description

Status

Threat category

Vessel noise correlations study This two-part study analyzed the statistical correlations between vessel design characteristics and underwater radiated noise levels, seeking to understand if certain vessel design or operational characteristics were correlated with louder or quieter vessels.

Phase 1 of the study analyzed data collected from Haro Strait and the Strait of Georgia between 2015-2018, while Phase 2 expanded to include: data collected by the Boundary Pass underwater listening station from 2018-2020; more detailed ship characteristics for a sub-set of vessels; and analysis of the variability in underwater radiated noise levels for repeat passes of the same ship.

Completed January 2021

Read Phase 2 final report
(January 2021)

Read Phase 1 final report
(May 2020)

Acoustic disturbance
Burrard Inlet underwater noise monitoring This project sought to evaluate longer-term trends in total
ambient noise and marine mammal presence in Burrard Inlet using data collected by sea-floor hydrophones over a one-year period, as well as through short-term hydrophone deployments to measure different noise sources in the harbour.
Project ongoing

Read 2019 report

Read 2020 report

Acoustic disturbance
Management of contaminants during underwater hull cleaning In partnership with Transport Canada, the objectives of this project was to validate a new in-water hull cleaning technology, and to investigate if hull cleaning a ship’s hull may result in reductions to fuel consumption and underwater noise. Completed March 2019

Read final report

Acoustic disturbance
Ambient underwater noise evaluation This project identified and evaluated the key factors affecting ambient noise at three hydrophone locations in the Salish Sea monitored by the ECHO Program over a two-year period (2016-2017). To evaluate changes in ambient underwater noise over time or with specific mitigations, it is important to understand how to consider and account for other factors, such as large ship and small boat traffic, currents, water temperature, weather and biological components. Completed December 2019

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Strait of Georgia underwater listening station In partnership with Transport Canada, Ocean Networks Canada and JASCO Applied Sciences, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority installed an underwater listening station in the Strait of Georgia in 2015 to monitor not only underwater noise source levels from ships, but also marine mammal presence and total ambient underwater noise. The Strait of Georgia underwater listening station was maintained and operated for just over two and a half years. Fisheries and Oceans Canada also some provided funding support to this project. Completed December 2018

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Vessel noise studies with regional partners The ECHO Program and Fisheries and Oceans Canada supported a small boat underwater noise measurement study in Haro Strait to better understand the underwater noise levels of whale watch and other small boats that operate in the Salish Sea near southern resident killer whale summer feeding habitat.

This study was conducted in parallel with the 2017 Haro Strait vessel slowdown trial which was measuring underwater noise levels from large piloted commercial ships in Haro Strait.

Completed April 2018

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Killer whale behavioural response to vessel noise This study sought to better understand how southern resident killer whales are predicted to respond to underwater noise from both large commercial ships and smaller whale watching boats. Completed May 2017

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Study of humpback whale calls in the presence of ships This study aimed to better understand the potential effects of ship noise on humpback whale calls in B.C. waters using underwater sound recordings. Completed May 2017

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Port authority incentives for underwater noise – Ship quieting options study What makes ships quieter? This study scanned the best options to reduce underwater noise from ships. The study recommended options to be included in the port authority’s EcoAction Program, which incentivizes ship operators to go above and beyond environmental regulations. As of January 1, 2017, ships with quiet classification notations or cavitation reduction technologies calling the Port of Vancouver are eligible for a discount on harbour due fees. Completed January 2017

Read final report here

Acoustic disturbance
Regional ocean noise contributors study How do different ships sound and where and how often do they transit in this region? This study identified and quantified the underwater noise contributions from various marine transportation sectors to overall regional ocean noise. Completed January 2017
Read final report here
Acoustic disturbance
Large whale aerial surveys and strike risk assessment Where is the risk of whale vessel strike the greatest? The ECHO Program supported Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s survey of large whale distribution off the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island using aerial surveillance and satellite tagging. The data collected through these surveys led to both a Fisheries and Oceans Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report and peer reviewed publication titled: Assessing the Risk of Ship Strikes to Humpback and Fin Whales of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Completed March 2017

See Fisheries and Oceans report

See Nichols et al peer reviewed publication

Acoustic disturbance