Noise exposure from commercial shipping for the southern resident killer whale population
This study assesses vessel-noise exposure levels for Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) in the Salish Sea. Kernel Density Estimation (KDE) was used to delineate SRKW summer core areas. Those areas were combined with the output of a regional cumulative noise model describing sound level variations generated by commercial vessels (1/3-octave-bands from 10 Hz to 63.1 kHz). Cumulative distribution functions were used to evaluate SRKW's noise exposure from 15 vessel categories over three zones located within the KDE. Median cumulative noise values were used to group categories based on the associated exposure levels. Ferries, Tugboats, Vehicle Carriers, Recreational Vessels, Containers, and Bulkers showed high levels of exposure (Leq−50th > 90 dB re 1 μPa) within SRKW core areas. Management actions aiming at reducing SRKW noise exposure during the summer should target the abovementioned categories and take into consideration the spatial distribution of their levels of exposure, their mechanical and their operational characteristics.