Potential impacts of shipping noise on marine mammals in the western Canadian Arctic
As the Arctic warms and sea ice decreases, increased shipping will lead to higher ambient noise levels in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic marine mammals are vulnerable to increased noise because they use sound to survive and likely evolved in a relatively quiet soundscape. We model vessel noise propagation in the proposed western Canadian Arctic shipping corridor in order to examine impacts on marine mammals and marine protected areas (MPAs). Our model predicts that loud vessels are audible underwater when > 100 km away, could affect marine mammal behaviour when within 2 km for icebreakers vessels, and as far as 52 km for tankers. This vessel noise could have substantial impacts on marine mammals during migration and in MPAs. We suggest that locating the corridor farther north, use of marine mammal observers on vessels, and the reduction of vessel speed would help to reduce this impact.