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Washington Maritime Blue launches new Quiet Sound program

December 17, 2021

Washington Maritime Blue is initiating a Quiet Sound program to reduce the underwater noise in Puget Sound where it can have adverse effects on endangered orca whales.

As these whales and other marine mammals use their sonar system and therefore depend on sound to navigate, communicate and find food, it makes it imperative to minimize the underwater noise from human activities.

The new program is based on the recommendations (including the reduction of vessel noise) of the Southern Resident Orca Task Force formed in 2018 to identify ways to reverse the decline of this species. Although the program has just started, its organizers have already secured initial funding, defined Quiet Sound’s basic direction and operations, as well as invited partners from various relevant organizations. With more than $800,000 in funding available over the next two years, the organizers aim to reduce the noise pollution from all types of vessels operating within Puget Sound.

Quiet Sound’s broad coalition of partners is preparing to launch several voluntary initiatives in 2022 to reduce underwater noise from large vessels. The new measures range from piloting a seasonal slowdown zone for commercial vessels to using app-based technology to notify ship operators in real time of nearby orca sightings.

Organizers hope the voluntary program achieves a maritime industry participation rate similar to the 80% to 90% achieved by the ECHO (Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation) Program initiated and led by the Port of Vancouver to reduce the noise to southern resident killer whales off British Columbia’s southern coast.

Quiet Sound also plans to use the WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS), which is the two-way platform managed by Ocean Wise (a Green Marine supporter), to report orca sightings to mariners and port personnel in real time.

Green Marine has had underwater noise as one of the program’s 14 performance indicators since 2017. It applies to all participating ship owners and ports operating in sea water. At seawater ports, the indicator sets out to manage the sources of underwater noise during routine operations, construction/development and/or maintenance activities. For seagoing vessels, it aims to minimize the noise generated by a ship through best management practices and/or new equipment and technologies.

Image from NOAA-Northwest-Fisheries-Science-Center