Mitigating the impacts of ocean noise
Canada’s marine environment is made up of estuaries, coastal areas and offshore marine waters, which are all home to a wide range of marine life. This includes many unique and important species of corals, fish, and whales like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, the Southern Resident killer whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga. Mitigating the impacts of human activities on Canada’s oceans is vital to protecting our marine species and their habitats. Protecting the health of our marine environment also ensures that Canada’s oceans economy can continue to grow in a sustainable, environmentally-responsible way.
Human activities in or near the ocean can introduce stressors like noise into the marine environment, potentially disrupting marine species and their ecosystems, and reducing their ability to travel, communicate, and find food. To preserve the quality of the marine environment, the Government of Canada is collaborating with key partners to:
- Identify and understand ecological stressors, such as human-produced underwater noise; and,
- Develop and improve measures to mitigate the impacts of human activities on the health and quality of our oceans, including impacts to whales and other marine species.
Human-produced ocean noise and its impacts
Sound is a critical element of life in the ocean. Many marine animals use sound to navigate, communicate, and find food, sometimes following or responding to sounds over great distances. They also use sound to monitor their environment, find mating partners, and avoid predators.
Increased human activity in Canada’s oceans has led to more underwater noise. Impacts from this noise may affect individual animals or entire populations differently, but underwater noise has been linked to a wide range of impacts on marine species, including:
- Disrupting their normal behaviour,
- change or loss of their habitat,
- masking sounds, which affects marine animals’ ability to communicate,
- changes in their physiology, behaviour and/or stress levels, and
- permanent injury or even death.
Ocean leaders and partners across Canada have recognized the need for better planning, science, tools and management measures to address ocean noise. That’s why the Government of Canada is taking action to better understand and manage ocean noise and its impacts on our marine environment.
Improving management measures and strategies
As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, we are developing an Ocean Noise Strategy for Canada, which will inform a whole-of-government approach to addressing underwater noise in our oceans. This forward-looking strategy will build upon current research and partnerships across Canada that are improving our understanding and management of ocean noise.
As a first step, a discussion document was launched in mid-October 2020 for a 90-day public comment period. This provided an opportunity for provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, industry stakeholders, coastal communities, and the public to influence the direction of the strategy and the Government's efforts to enhance coordination and management of underwater noise in Canada's oceans.
All comments received on the document during the public comment period will inform next steps, including the development of a draft strategy with initial recommendations by summer 2021. The final strategy is expected to be launched in 2022.
Understanding ocean noise
The Ocean Noise Strategy is being developed under the Oceans Protection Plan’s Marine Environmental Quality initiative. As part of this initiative, we are also working with partners to research and better understand how vessel-related noise affects whales, specifically the endangered North Atlantic right whale, the Southern Resident killer whale, and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga.
Managing Marine Environmental Quality factsheet
English online version or PDF (531 KB)
Inuktitut version PDF (566 KB)
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