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Government of Canada launching Oceans Protection Plan initiative to study and manage marine ecological stressors that impact marine mammals

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Government of Canada launching Oceans Protection Plan initiative to study and manage marine ecological stressors that impact marine mammals

Canada NewsWire

DARTMOUTH, NS, July 20, 2018 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada is taking action to better understand pressures facing our marine environment to help us protect our oceans and its creatures for generations to come.

Today Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament for Dartmouth — Cole Harbour, on behalf of the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced $26.6 million in funding from the Oceans Protection Plan for research to help better understand noise pressures on marine mammals.

Research under the Marine Environmental Quality initiative will help the Government of Canada identify how to reduce the impacts of noise stressors on whales and other marine species.

The initial focus will be to better understand the impact of shipping-related noise on whales, specifically the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, Southern Resident Killer Whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga. Researchers will work on establishing current ambient underwater noise levels in these whales' habitat, which will help inform measures aimed at reducing the levels, as well as evaluating their effectiveness. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already begun working with various partners to carry out this important research, including projects previously announced in March for the Pacific coast.

Quotes

"To protect our endangered marine mammals, we must first understand the pressures they face, so that we can develop and implement effective protections. Today' major investment in science will play a key role in improving the health of our oceans and protecting marine mammals."

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"Our coastal regions are home to important marine species and habitats that play an important role in our country's economy. Today's investment is helping restore funding for ocean and freshwater science, which will ultimately make our waters healthier for the benefit of all Canadians and future generations."

Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament, Dartmouth–Cole Harbour

Quick Facts

  • The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made that is ensuring our coasts are healthier, safer and better protected.
  • This initiative includes funding of $635,000 to Dalhousie University to support monitoring efforts of North Atlantic Right Whales in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and in Roseway Basin, an area off southern Nova Scotia. The university will deploy underwater acoustic gliders to detect the presence of the whales and how they move through the areas.
  • Dalhousie University also received $22,000 to support the development of an ocean noise model capable of predicting the natural or "normal" underwater noise levels in waters inhabited by whales. This modeling work will help us better understand and quantify the noise levels that human activities are contributing to our oceans.
  • Funding of $3.1 million was previously announced for four research projects to study the impacts of underwater noise on the Pacific coast. Partners include Ocean Wise, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
  • Under Budget 2018, the Government announced additional funding of $167.4 million for whale initiatives will help protect and support the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the North Atlantic right whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale through comprehensive actions tailored to address the unique combinations of threats.

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Backgrounder

Understanding the marine environment to better protect whales

Oceans Protection Plan

There is growing public and scientific concern over the potential impacts of increasing human activities, such as marine shipping, on the quality of the marine environment and its inhabitants. Under the Oceans Protection Plan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with partners to better understand the impact of environmental stressors on marine mammals.

Acoustic Monitoring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Dalhousie University - $635,000

Understanding the location and movements of the North Atlantic Right Whales is key to helping us protect this iconic species. Funding will support Dalhousie University's monitoring efforts of North Atlantic Right Whales in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and in Roseway Basin, an area off southern Nova Scotia. The university will deploy gliders that use underwater microphones to detect the presence of the whales and how they move through the areas.

Ocean Noise Modeling

Dalhousie University - $22,000

Establishing the current noise levels in our ocean and how it varies by region, by season and with changes in anthropogenic activities is key to understanding the degree to which noise is a concern for marine mammals. This funding will support Dalhousie University's development of an ocean noise model capable of predicting the ambient or "natural" underwater noise levels (generated by natural wind and rain) in waters inhabited by whales. Combining the natural underwater noise level with noise generated from human activities will increase our understanding of the total sound pressure levels experienced by whales and their impact on their ability to forage for food and communicate with one another.

Impacts of marine ecosystem variability on the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in the Salish Sea

University of British Columbia - $1.1 million

Access to adequate food sources has been identified as a threat to the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Declines in the Chinook salmon population have reduced the availability of an important food source. The University of British Columbia will examine how changes in the food web affect the abundance and quality of Chinook salmon in critical habitat areas of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

Comprehensive health and condition assessment of Southern and Northern Resident Killer Whale populations

Ocean Wise Conservation Association - $942,000

Despite facing similar threats, the Northern and Southern resident killer whale populations are affected very differently. Ocean Wise will conduct comprehensive health assessments of Northern and Southern resident killer whale populations to better understand the impact of environmental stressors, particularly noise and prey limitation, on the different groups. These studies will help researchers identify potential vulnerabilities of the Southern Resident Killer Whale and contribute to the development of mitigation measures to support the recovery of this iconic species.

Investigations of Anthropogenic Impacts on Southern Resident Killer Whale and their prey

University of Victoria - $935,000

In order to support the recovery efforts of the Southern Resident Killer Whale, the University of Victoria will undertake three projects designed to better understand the behaviour and vulnerabilities of the species and their prey. Studies will look at how underwater noise impacts the whales' ability to use their echolocation to communicate and detect prey. Researchers will also examine how noise impacts Chinook salmon, their primary prey. Work will also focus on understanding the contribution of small vessels to the overall soundscape of Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Underwater Listening Station

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority - $200,000

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program aims to better understand and manage potential impacts to marine mammals from shipping activities. This funding will to continue the operation of an underwater listening station, located under shipping lanes in the Strait of Georgia, to better understand and measure the noise levels of a wide range of different commercial vessel types, to monitor ambient noise over time and to detect how frequently whales are present in this part of the Salish Sea.

Associated Links

On Alert for Whales – Interactive Map

Protecting our coasts

News Release - Government announces new initiatives to protect whales under the Oceans Protection Plan

News Release - The Government of Canada takes immediate action to protect endangered whales through the Oceans Protection Plan

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SOURCE Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Maritimes Region

View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/July2018/20/c7979.html

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