Listening post monitors for orcas in Puget Sound

Ship noise can affect the ability of orcas to hunt. Credit: Andreina Schoeberlein

Researchers in Washington state are testing an array of hydrophones in Puget Sound to see if the devices can detect the presence of orcas and help ships cut their engines or steer clear of them.

The field test is an early step toward implementing a new Quiet Sound project recommended by a state orca task force, which is being undertaken by the Seattle nonprofit Washington Maritime Blue. Similar to a program in place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Quiet Sound could eventually call for a slowdown zone in Puget Sound, where a population of about 74 orcas (Orcinus orca) rely on echolocation to hunt. Ship noise makes that more difficult. The project launched in January with $600,000 from state and federal agencies, ports and foundations.

Read more from the Seattle Times.