Quiet Sound’s Second Annual Voluntary Commercial Vessel Slowdown Kicks Off to Protect Migrating Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales in Puget Sound

  • The initiative aims to support Southern Resident killer whale populations by reducing ambient underwater noise that negatively affects communication and hunting behaviors
  • The slowdown period began when the Southern Resident killer whales were detected in the area. It will end on January 12, 2024
  • New report showcases results of inaugural 2022-2023 Voluntary Commercial Shipping Slowdown trial reduced underwater noise intensity by almost half (~3db) in the Slowdown zone

SEATTLE – October 12, 2023 – Quiet Sound, a collaborative program from Washington Maritime Blue dedicated to fostering a more sustainable environment for Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) through reduction in underwater noise pollution announces the official launch of its voluntary vessel slowdown season beginning today through early 2024.

The effort protects the remaining 74 Southern Resident killer whales in the Salish Sea. The start of the commercial vessel showdown was triggered as Southern Resident  killer whales were reported in the waters off of Seattle on the morning of October 12th. The slowdown period remains in effect through January 12, 2024, key months for their migration. 

Container vessels, vehicle carriers, and cruise ships are asked to voluntarily slow to 14.5 knots, while tankers and bulkers are asked to slow to 11 knots in an area 22 nautical miles long through Admiralty Inlet and north Puget Sound (see map).

“We know this reduction in large vessel speed translates to potentially life-saving noise mitigation for Southern Resident killer whales. Slower speeds curb noise in the same frequencies these endangered animals use to communicate and hunt,” said Rachel Aronson, Quiet Sound Program Director. “We learned last season that we picked the right time of year and right location for the slowdown. We appreciate our maritime partners for their eagerness to participate last season and hope for even greater participation this Slowdown season.”

The results of the 2022-2023 Voluntary Commercial Shipping Showdown trial show:

  • 70% of 670 vessels passing through the slowdown area decreased their speed
  • 53% of the transits achieved the proposed speed targets
  • Median broadband sound levels were reduced by 2.8 decibels, a 45% reduction in sound intensity
  • Southern Resident killer whales were present in the slowdown area for 36 days of the 80-day slowdown (45%)

“We appreciate Quiet Sound championing an effort that we all care about, and that we as shippers transiting through the Puget Sound can support and participate,” said Capt. Yuki Ebina from MOL (Americas) LLC, who operated shipping vessels through the Slowdown zone last season. “The ocean and its habitat is our collective responsibility.”

This 2023-2024 Slowdown will be monitored using a system of hydrophones, data from mariners, and whale reporting from Orca Network, with a participation goal of more than 80% this season.

“The existence and well-being of the Makah people have always been closely tied to our relationship with the natural environment, especially the ocean,” said Vice Chairman of the Makah Tribal Council Chad Bowechop. “The Makah Tribe is pleased to be on the Leadership Committee guiding these vessel slowdowns and looks forward to continued involvement with the Quiet Sound Program.”

Quiet Sound will host a briefing in December for press, elected officials, and executives of the organizations on the Quiet Sound Leadership Committee to release real time data of this year’s Slowdown.

Quiet Sound recently received the North American Marine Environmental Protection Agency (NAMEPA) Non-profit award for 2023 and NOAA’s 2023 Partner in the Spotlight Award for its work to protect the Southern Resident killer whales.

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/.

Quiet Sound

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