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Quebec Bulletin
June - July 2013/Volume 16/Number 3

The Sound of Ships in the St. Lawrence

Launch of acoustic observatory
Launch of acoustic observatory

To improve our understanding of whales' acoustic environment in their habitat in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, an acoustic observatory to monitor ships was installed in the Laurentian Channel off Métis-sur-Mer in November 2012. This observatory is measuring the noise emitted by ships transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway over a one-year period.

The acoustic signature of each ship passing over the observatory is being measured to compile a databank on the fleet's acoustic characteristics. These shipping-specific characteristics are combined with a traffic map that is simultaneously generated using the Canadian Coast Guard's monitoring network. The network records the positions of ships in Canadian waters, as provided by the Automatic Identification System (AIS).

The acoustic characteristics and traffic map will be used to develop a model of the sound caused by shipping in habitats frequented by whales in the marine section of the St. Lawrence. In early May 2013, a team of scientists from the Maurice Lamontagne Institute went offshore to do maintenance work on the observatory's first two mooring stations and install two others. The team also used this trip at sea to test a group of satellite-tracked acoustic drifters, which will measure noise from ships over the summer.

Yvan Simard and Nathalie Roy

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