A significant drop in sea traffic brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has created what scientists call a rare opportunity to study how quieter waters affect southern resident killer whales off the British Columbia coast.
Ocean Networks Canada, which has been monitoring noise from ships and sounds made by marine mammals such as orcas, said it believes the change will be a boon for the animals.
“The anticipation is that the quieter environment will help the killer whales in communicating, in socializing, in navigating and most importantly, in finding food,” said Richard Dewey, the organization’s associate director of science.
A paper published last month in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America said there has been about a 30 per cent decrease in commercial shipping traffic into the Port of Vancouver from China due to COVID-19 in just the first four months of the year.
Dewey said it’s not just commercial traffic that’s gone down – there’s also been a pause in whale watching boats, cruise ships, recreational vessels and tankers. That’s led to a noise reduction of about 75 per cent, he said.
“What we are seeing in the Salish Sea is levels of shipping noise that haven’t been present for three or four decades,” he said. “So we would have to go back to the 1980s before we would have heard such a quiet environment.”
One of the major concerns for the endangered southern resident killer whales is that shipping noises have been increasing and almost doubling every decade, he said.
These mammals have a hearing that is similar to that of humans, and they communicate in a frequency band similar to ours, Dewey said.
They use vocalizations to communicate within the pod, to navigate and most importantly to find their prey, he said.
“They echo-locate to find their salmon. It’s a very sophisticated sort of acoustic capability and the quieter the environment, they would have more success in finding prey.”
In the ocean, Dewey said whales use sound “continuously and all the time.”
Their eyesight helps them see up to a distance of about five to 10 metres while using sounds helps them scope out kilometres, he said, adding that the Salish Sea is a “very murky environment.”
Scientists believe the loud noises caused by humans increase stress hormones in orcas because they have to shout and cannot communicate over large distances, Dewey said.
He compared it to someone going into a loud club and having to pause until noise passes, to speak more loudly or give up. He noted that unlike people in a club, orcas can’t just leave for a quieter space.
Scientists will be using 30 hydrophones to record sounds made by the killer whales when they come into the Salish Sea, which should be any time now, Dewey said. Hydrophones are underwater recording devices that record how loudly the whales talk when it’s noisy or if they just give up.
The team is hoping this study will yield much-needed data to make policy and regulation changes to help the animals survive, he said.
“If we see them returning and staying in their critical habitat for longer periods … if we have evidence of successful feeding on the salmon, then those are all good signs and in some sense the quieter environments can only have helped their survival,” he said.
The director of the University of British Columbia’s marine mammal research unit said that in the past, killer whales would be seen in the Salish Sea in May and June, but for the past four years they have been coming in much later, sometimes as late as September.
Andrew Trites said one of the reasons could be that there is not enough salmon, although mathematically there is enough fish for the 72 remaining southern resident killer whales.
This has left scientists wondering whether the trouble is that the whales cannot hunt because of disruption from vessels, he said.
“And there is an opportunity to see whether or not the behaviour of whales is different with fewer boats on the water and less noise.”
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
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Newfoundland and Labrador premier tries to allay border fears – The Telegram
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
Local Journalism Iniative Reporter
As controversy continues to swirl around the prospect of opening Canada’s domestic borders, Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier and health minister are striving to allay fears.
On Wednesday, the premier fielded questions about a date that was tossed out last month around the same time the province announced it was joining an Atlantic bubble.
The opening of Atlantic regional borders, which allows permanent residents of all four provinces to travel freely without self-isolating, took effect July 3.
But Dwight Ball said a proposed opening of all provincial borders on July 17 has not been part of recent discussions.
“We know that around the province right now there’s considerable fear in opening up those borders,” he said this week. “We recognize from a Newfoundland and Labrador perspective that the areas that will line up and have more travellers come into our province would be from provinces like Alberta, provinces like Ontario.”
However, he said there has been talk lately about when, or even if, that may happen.
“First and foremost, I can assure people in Newfoundland and Labrador, it will be the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that will be the priority and will be what will influence the decision made by all of us before we ease any more travel restrictions.”
Ban not total
Ball also touched on a common misconception about travel into and out of the province since a travel ban was implemented on May 15. At least 8,000 exemptions have been granted to non-residents, for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t include the fact that residents are free to travel outside the province and return again.
“Keep in mind we have a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that leave the province and go visit families in Alberta and Ontario and other places,” he said. “They can leave. There’s no restriction on leaving. The restriction is when they come back.”
Any person arriving from outside the Atlantic bubble, including those who’ve passed through the region from elsewhere, are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.
The premier also clarified that five new cases in P.E.I. last weekend stemmed from a U.S. citizen who had arrived legally in Halifax and was picked up by family members from P.E.I. The island province turned him back at its border, so he returned to self-isolate in Halifax. Another P.E.I. resident was confirmed positive on Thursday, stemming from the same cluster.
“I think the officials within all of the Maritime provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. — will clearly say and articulate that what happened with this traveller was not at all connected to the Atlantic bubble,” Ball said.
New Brunswick also reported one new case on Thursday, stemming from travel.
Meanwhile, a nursing professor at Memorial University had some thoughts this week on the safety of flying with strangers as airlines start filling planes again.
The issue made headlines last weekend when a Halifax man decided to walk off a plane rather than fly in close quarters with passengers from outside the Atlantic bubble.
“I have mixed feelings about airplanes, and I travel a lot,” Donna Moralejo, who specializes in infection control, said in an interview.
Moralejo said the air in a plane is actually safer than most households because of built-in filtration systems. But surface contacts must be avoided, and close proximity means masks are essential.
“It’s probably not as unsafe as it sounds, given the airflow, but it’s less than ideal, especially on longer flights,” she said.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.
4 thriller objects spotted in deep room, compared with nearly anything at any time seen – haveeruonline
LiveScience.com documented on Thursday that the highly circular objects that appear vibrant alongside the edges had been found when astronomers reviewed archival info from radio telescopes in Australia and India.
Kristine Spekkens, an astronomer from the Royal Military services College or university of Canada and Queen’s College, told the science internet site that the objects look to be a little something not nevertheless probed.
“It could also be that these are an extension of earlier known course of objects that we have not been in a position to discover,” she claimed. Researchers have referred to the objects as ORCs, or “odd radio circles.”
The Australian astronomers in the study noted that the objects ended up uncovered though functioning on the Evolutionary Map of the Universe Pilot, an all-sky continuum study, working with a square kilometer array pathfinder telescope.
The objects ended up described as circular, “edge-brightened discs.” They do not “correspond to any recognized style of object.” Two of them are reasonably close together, which could point out some relation. Two also attribute “an optical galaxy in the vicinity of the center of the radio emission.”
“We speculate that they could represent a spherical shock wave from an more-galactic transient occasion, or the outflow, or a remnant, from a radio galaxy considered finish-on,” the experts wrote.
The scholarly papers ended up posted on Arxiv.org.
The paper lists a several possible explanations but dismisses them. They theorized that it could be a supernova remnant, galactic planetary nebula or a deal with-on star-forming galaxy or ring galaxy.
The face-on star-forming galaxy principle, for case in point, was dashed, in part, owing to the “lack of measurable optical emission” in comparison to the radio emission.
Astronomers just spotted something in space that they can't explain – BGR – BGR
- Astronomers have spotted a new class of radio objects in space that has never been documented before.
- The researchers ruled out most possible explanations but a few remain, including that the signals are the leftover remnants of some cosmic event.
- In a new research paper, the scientists offer their best guesses, but can’t say for certain what they saw.
When astronomers used high-powered telescopes to peer deep into space they never know what they might find, but generally speaking, they know what they’re looking at once they see it. Finding a totally new class of unidentified object is rare, but that’s just what researchers using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder telescope found while scanning the skies for radio signatures.
The team of scientists found four strange objects that they describe as “circular edge-brightened discs” which don’t correspond to any known object in the records. The team has named them ORCs, short for “odd radio circles,” and they’re eager to learn more about them.
As LiveScience reports, the researchers were quickly able to dismiss some possible explanations, such as newborn galaxies, nebulas, or supernovas. They even considered whether the strange objects might just be imaging artifacts, but were able to also rule that out. They’re a real mystery, but the researchers have other theories they can neither prove nor disprove at this point. One such explanation is that the rings are what remains of some massive explosive event far away in space.
What makes ORCs so hard to pin an explanation on is the fact that while they are visible in radio wavelengths they can’t be seen using visible light or even infrared. They appear to be purely radio signals, but their uniform shape suggests that the signal may be radiating out from a central point, supporting the idea that the circles are cosmic shockwaves spreading into space.
Still, even if that theory holds water, researchers still don’t know what caused them, how old they are, or what might happen to them in the future. They’re believed to be extragalactic, meaning that they’re not located within the Milky Way, but the team can’t say for certain how far away these strange signals are.
“We have discovered, to the best of our knowledge, a new class of radio-astronomical object, consisting of a circular disc, which in some cases is limb-brightened, and sometimes contains a galaxy at its center. None of the known types of radio object seems able to explain it,” the researchers write. “We, therefore, consider it likely that the ORCs represent a new type of object found in radioastronomy images. The edge-brightening in some ORCs suggests that this circular image may represent a spherical object, which in turn suggests a spherical wave from some transient event.”
It’s all pretty exciting, but we may have to wait a while before astronomers figure out exactly what they’re looking at.
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