The slowdown trial is the first a voluntary effort of its kind in Puget Sound for large commercial vessels to reduce their speed and decrease underwater noise to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales
Quiet Sound Launches First Trial Large Vessel Slowdown to Help Protect Endangered Whales in Puget Sound
SEATTLE, WA (October 24, 2022) – Quiet Sound, a collaborative program among government agencies, the shipping industry, the U.S. military, tribal groups, and the scientific community working to reduce noise and physical impacts to endangered Southern Resident killer whales from large commercial vessels, announces the launch of its first vessel slowdown trial, an initiative to address the impact of noise produced by large commercial vessels on the local Southern Resident Killer Whale population. The trial run takes place October 24 to December 22, 2022.
Every fall and winter the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ ability to navigate, communicate and hunt for salmon in Admiralty Inlet and north Puget Sound is threatened by interfering underwater noise pollution caused by passing vessels. The Quiet Sound slowdown trial encourages vessel operators to reduce their speed in designated transit areas by 30-50%, when safe and operationally feasible to do so, creating 20 nautical miles of quieter and protected whale habitat. Quiet Sound is providing commercial mariners and large vessels the necessary resources to join together in a voluntary effort to slow down in designated areas, reducing underwater noise pollution and protecting the 73 remaining Southern Resident killer whales in the Salish Sea.
“We want to continue to make the Puget Sound a place where Southern Resident killer whales thrive and safely return for years to come,” shared Rachel Aronson, Quiet Sound Program Director. “We have been overwhelmed by the support of the local maritime community and are eager to see the positive impact of this inclusive, collaborative program made possible by the reinforcement of the operators of vehicle carriers, cruise ships, and other large vessels motivated to protect a critical habitat for this endangered species. On average, 10-12 large commercial vessels move through this zone every day, and we’ve received commitments from the Puget Sound Pilots and major commercial shipping companies such as Maersk, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and Nissan Motor Car Carrier that will participate in the program.”
In addition to reducing underwater noise pollution, the goals of the initiative include: providing an official proof-of-concept for a seasonal slowdown in Washington state, laying the groundwork for improving the conservation benefit of voluntary changes to vessel operations over time, developing effective communication with mariners, and collecting data on vessel sound levels when the whales are present in the Puget Sound.
Quiet Sound is recording whale presence data using the WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS) and reporting out to mariners in real time to inform them of slowdown areas. They are monitoring underwater noise levels with underwater microphones during and after the slowdown period to determine the effectiveness of the trial.
“The shipping industry is becoming more aware of the impacts on whales of shipping and undersea noise,” said Capt. Ivan Carlson of Puget Sound Pilots, “Part of the service that pilots provide is to ensure that the crews are aware of our local best practices and to verify whether ships are slowing their speed appropriately and practicing whale avoidance.”
Quiet Sound, steered by a coalition of federal, state, tribal, port, maritime industry, scientist, and conservation organizations, is funded by the Washington State Legislature, US Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the combined ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. As the primary, collaborative initiative in Washington state to address the impacts of shipping noise on local whale populations, Quiet Sound received its initial funding and began organizing for projects like the slowdown in 2021.
“The launch of the voluntary program is a great example of what we can achieve when we work together to protect our Southern Resident Killer Whales,” says Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. “In 2018, I called together the Orca Task Force to identify actions needed to support a thriving and resilient population of Southern Resident orcas. The Task Force found that quieter waters play a key role in orca recovery. Today, I’m proud of the collaborative work that Quiet Sound coalition and maritime stakeholders are leading to allow Washington whales and the blue economy to thrive together.”
Quiet Sound encourages mariners to sign up for WRAS to receive text messages within ten nautical miles of a verified whale sighting. Members of professional marine organizations, as well as pilots or members of the bridge crew of a ship, are also encouraged to contact the WRAS Project Manager at WRAS@ocean.org to request access to the alert system. Members of the public can help commercial mariners avoid whales by reporting whale sightings through the Orca Network, the WhaleReport app (on Apple and Android) and the Whale Alert app (on Apple and Android). All information about the trial slowdown can be found in this fact sheet.
Quiet Sound gratefully acknowledges all the partners who are working to provide Washington mariners with real-time whale locations, including: Ocean Wise, Orca Network, Acartia, Conserve.io, and all the members of the public who report sightings.
Alongside industry partners and Washington State Governor Inslee, Quiet Sound will be reviewing and releasing initial data from the slowdown at an event on December 9, 10-11 am. Stay up to date on Quiet Sound initiatives, opportunities to support Quiet Sound, and other educational resources by signing up for their newsletter and following them on LinkedIn.
About Quiet Sound
Quiet Sound is a collaborative alliance that aims to reduce the impact of large commercial vessels on Southern Resident killer whales through voluntary measures. It is implementing noise-reduction initiatives, educational campaigns and monitoring programs in the Puget Sound, in coordination with Canadian and United States authorities. Quiet Sound is administered by Washington Maritime Blue, a strategic alliance to accelerate a sustainable and equitable blue economy. News and updates can be found on the Quiet Sound website: https://quietsound.org/.
Media Contact: Eric Schudiske (firstname.lastname@example.org)