British Columbia Hydrophone Network

A new, collaborative monitoring initiative

Hydrophone technology has become one of the most important tools we can use to research the communication and habitat use of whales worldwide. We have used hydrophones to carry out our research since the 1970s and, in 2020, we received a grant to install several new digitally-calibrated hydrophones at our key sites.

These new hydrophones are part of a collaborative project between BC Whales, the Pacific Orca Society (OrcaLab), and the Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society (SIMRES), each of which operates its own system of hydrophones on the north, central and south coasts of British Columbia, Canada. Thus, the British Columbia Hydrophone Network was born. Each organization carries the shared vision of habitat protection for whales at risk of losing their pristine coastal habitats, as well as focusing on data collection to support recovery plans for each species.

The purpose of the Network is to enable our organizations to build, maintain and contribute to a shared, coast-wide information system.

This would create the ability to collect acoustic and visual data on whale activity using consistent standards and protocols, via professionally maintained and consistently calibrated equipment. High-quality, comparable ocean acoustic datasets gathered by all Network members will be archived using one server to preserve their long-term integrity and made searchable and available to all researchers and students for scientific, stewardship, and/or educational purposes.

This ocean acoustic database will enable the comparison of vessel traffic impact on whales in areas that differ environmentally and acoustically. The collaboration between Network partners will enable scientists to quantify how the ocean soundscape is changing. To accomplish this, whale acoustic data from hydrophones and land-based visual surveys will be available on a central database.

As we gain a greater understanding of the impacts of underwater anthropogenic noise on marine life, this hydrophone network will shape and serve society’s economic and ecological goals of protecting the ocean environment. The Network also exemplifies our ability to work together to accomplish critical environmental goals, demonstrating the importance of teamwork in the pursuit of long-lasting positive change.

Map and project information courtesy of

Photos from the field

Many thanks to Tavish Campbell, Megan Hockin-Bennett, Wild Bus Films & Hakai Magazine for the photographs.

Listen now

Stream our live hydrophone audio