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Recommendation: 22

Status: Underway

Implement shipping noise-reduction initiatives and monitoring programs, coordinating with Canadian and U.S. authorities.


Action 1

Create a program similar to Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) for reducing the impact of noise on Southern Residents in Washington.

Action 2

Coordinate with the ECHO program on transboundary efforts.

Action 3

Provide funding to complete an underwater acoustic monitoring network for Puget Sound, filling in gaps, such as south San Juan Island, and supporting acoustic and visual mapping to improve the ability to identify when and where Southern Residents are present.

Implementation Details

  • The Governor should continue to encourage strategic U.S. and Washington State collaborations with ECHO from the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington State Ferries, Puget Sound ports, the Pacific Merchants Shipping Association, the Puget Sound Pilots, OrcaSound, tribes, and others, that support implementation of ECHO and related shipping noise-reduction initiatives while promoting safe, sustainable shipping practices.
  • Work with the Washington Public Ports Association to create a program similar to ECHO for Washington State. The Governor and the Legislature should fund the deployment of a permanent, scientific-grade hydrophone on south San Juan Island and fill in other key gaps in the underwater acoustic monitoring network of Puget Sound.
  • The Governor and the Legislature also should support advancement of acoustic and visual mapping efforts by Washington State Ferries and others, with the goal to share data with the Southern Resident Killer Whale Report Alert System being developed in Canada by ECHO and the Vancouver Aquarium.

Recent Progress

  • In 2022, Quiet Sound was funded and began its work to better understand and reduce the cumulative effects of acoustic and physical disturbance from large commercial vessels on Southern Residents in Washington. Quiet Sound’s leadership committee comprises National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Coast Guard, the Makah Tribe, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Puget Sound Partnership, Washington State Ferries, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Northwest Seaport Alliance, Washington Maritime Blue, Marine Exchange of Puget Sound, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Seattle Aquarium and Natural Resources Defense Council.
  • During the past few years, ships leaving Washington ports have shown a high degree of compliance with the ECHO program’s voluntary slow-downs and other measures in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait/Boundary Pass. Similarly, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service actively has encouraged compliance by outbound U.S. and Canadian ships with Canada’s interim sanctuary zone at Swiftsure Bank. By minimizing potential encroachment and transits across the sanctuary, the maritime community seeks to minimize underwater noise and disturbance near key Southern Resident foraging hotspots.
  • The Coast Guard is evaluating safe access routes for vessels traveling to and from West Coast ports from Washington to California to determine whether a Shipping Safety Fairway or routing measures should be created or changed.

More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.