AS3: Reducing the effects of shipping on biodiversity

Date: Thursday October 11, 2018

Location: Saivo, Lappia Hall

Time: 13:30-15:00

This session focuses on anthropogenic stressors in the marine environment related to vessel traffic and underwater noise. Stressors include underwater noise, risk of pollution, and direct impacts of vessels/activities on animals (ship strikes, repeated disturbance, etc.). Presenters will review how the stressor negatively affects biodiversity, and explore ways in which we can mitigate or manage these negative consequences. The session will consist of a series of presentations, followed by an open question period and panel discussion.

Chair: William Halliday, Wildlife Conservation Society, Canada

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion

Presentations:

  1. The state of underwater noise throughout the Arctic marine environment: a review: William Halliday, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada pdf
  2. The potential effect of underwater noise from construction and explosives when improving fairways: Camilla Anita Spansvoll, Norwegian Coastal Administration pdf
  3. Vulnerability of Arctic marine mammals to vessel traffic in the increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route: Donna Hauser, University of Washington, University of Alaska Fairbanks pdf
  4. Arctic shipping, AMSA and the Polar Code: a toolbox for keeping Arctic marine mammals safe: Melanie Lancaster, WWF pdf
  5. Moderated discussion: William Halliday, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada 

 


Abstracts:

The state of underwater noise throughout the Arctic marine environment: a review

William Halliday, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

I will describe issues related to underwater noise throughout the Arctic marine environment. I will first examine patterns in natural noise levels, followed by impacts of climate change, industrial activities, and shipping on noise levels that have been documented throughout the Arctic. I will then examine how underwater noise can affect marine animals, with most emphasis put on marine mammals, and provide examples of impacts documented throughout the Arctic. Finally, I will discuss how noise levels may change throughout the Arctic, how these changes may impact marine animals, and ways in which we might manage or mitigate underwater noise. This presentation is based on an exhaustive literature review which I will write for the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment working group. This presentation meets Congress goals and ABA assessment recommendations by specifically examining a stressor (underwater noise) that is expected to rapidly increase throughout the region. Underwater noise is pervasive throughout the marine environment and has wide-ranging impacts, including affecting movements and behaviour, increasing stress levels, decreasing the ability of animals to communicate (i.e. masking), causing hearing damage, and even death. All of these impacts can have population-level consequences, which can then impact biodiversity.

 

The potential effect of underwater noise from construction and explosives when improving fairways

Camilla Anita Spansvoll, Norwegian Coastal Administration 

Research has been done on how seismic activity spreads, and possibly affects marine wildlife. But how does other type of construction-made noise spread? After the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) meet this question when herring and whales surrounded a construction site, it was decided to initiate a project that would look further into this and gather data from our own projects. The goal is to answer the question: How can shock waves from seabed-blasts affect fish, marine mammals and other wildlife? There is no doubt that physical damage is the result when in close proximity, but what can be considered to be a safe distance? Will blasting of bedrock disturb spawning areas 2 kilometers away from the site? If yes, what mitigating measures can be used to prevent this, and is there any? The NCA will measure underwater noise and sound pressure from both ramming of piles and the use of explosives in bedrock. So far measurements have been done of the ramming of piles into solid rock in a narrow fjord. The next step is measurement of the use of explosives, how far does it spread? And what is the potential damage?

 

Vulnerability of Arctic marine mammals to vessel traffic in the increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route

Donna Hauser, University of Washington, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Kristin L. Laidre, University of Washington; Harry L. Stern, University of Washington 

Vessel transits are expanding into the increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route, yet potential impacts on endemic Arctic marine mammal (AMM) species are unknown. We developed a vulnerability assessment of 80 subpopulations of seven AMM species to vessel traffic. Vulnerability scores were based on the combined influence of spatially-explicit exposure to the sea routes and a suite of sensitivity variables. Over half of AMM subpopulations are exposed to open-water vessel transits in the Arctic sea routes. Narwhals were most vulnerable to vessel impacts given their high exposure and sensitivity, and polar bears least vulnerable due to low sensitivity. Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by 2-3 times higher vulnerability than more remote regions such as northwest Greenland. These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory AMMs, so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for sustainable management. Uncertainty was greatest for the least-known species in the most remote regions, underscoring the need for additional knowledge. Our quantification of the heterogeneity of risk across AMM species provides a necessary first step towards developing best practices for maritime industries poised to advance into Arctic sea routes.

 

Arctic shipping, AMSA and the Polar Code: a toolbox for keeping Arctic marine mammals safe

Melanie Lancaster, World Wildlife Fund; Melissa Nacke, World Wildlife Fund

The Arctic is home to a variety of marine mammals, including three whale species (beluga whales, narwhals and bowhead whales), walruses, ringed seals, bearded seals and polar bears. All are found only in the Arctic and are facing new challenges as a result of climate change and associated sea ice loss. As well as loss of sea ice habitat, climate change brings with it to the Arctic greater opportunities for industrial development, including new, shorter shipping routes and the subsequent potential for increased shipping. Associated threats to Arctic marine mammals include underwater noise pollution, chemical pollution (oil spills) and ship strikes. Here we present a series of tools for industry use and a set of recommendations for regulators that will help to safeguard Arctic marine mammals from impacts of shipping, in line with and to strengthen implementation of the IMO Polar Code and the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA). Through this, we address Recommendations 4.4, 6.2, 4.1, and 3.5 of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment.

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