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Rising sea levels, underwater noise, commercial pollutants in B.C. waters: report

The Douglas Channel just south of Kitmat, B.C., is pictured on Jan. 10, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The report found underwater noise has been doubling in intensity every 10 years since the 1950s

It also found pollutants and microfibers are finding their way into marine ecosystems and entering the food chain

The report also found sea levels may be rising faster than initially predicted

BRITISH COLUMBIA (NEWS 1130) – A new report from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute at Ocean Wise has found B.C.’s coastal waters are vulnerable to the “increasing pressures from human development.”

With 25,000 kilometres of shoreline, the report found “critical threats” to coastal ecosystems.

“We face a changing world, the ocean is changing, ocean health is under threat, there are a number of concerns out there,” said Dr. Peter Ross with Ocean Wise.

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One of the things the report focused on was underwater noise. According to its findings, noise from shipping, construction, recreation, and shoreline development has been doubling in intensity every decade since the 1950s.

“One pressing topic of concern is underwater noise. Cetaceans, that is whales, dolphins and porpoises rely very heavily on a healthy acoustic environment underwater,” said Ross. “A noisy underwater environment in a real problem for killer whales and other whale species, dolphins, and porpuses.”

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Another key finding reports microparticles and organic pollutants are a big concern. According to the report, microbeads, fibres from textiles as well as microplastics are making their way into the ocean and entering the food chain. It also states that pollutants from commercial use in Canada are threatening sea life, including B.C.’s killer whale population.

Ross said the study also found rising sea levels to be a concern. New science suggests sea levels may be rising faster and by a greater amount than initially predicted.

“Building in low-lying areas in flood planes adjacent to any body of water has its risks and I think understanding the interaction between a changing climate and our real-estate, i.e. our homes is absolutely crucial,” he added.

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But the biggest concern? Climate change. Ross said climate change brings with it a wide range of impacts to the ocean.

“There are a number of different effects, it’s not just a warming ocean, it’s changing ocean currents, it’s increasing ocean acidification, it’s higher sea levels, it’s the consequent impact of all of these on ocean productivity, on the abundance of salmon, on our resident killer whales that rely on salmon, shoreline erosion and flooding.”

-With files from Martin MacMahon