Imagine a motorcycle revving through your house while you get ready for school, make a meal, or talk to your family. That motorcycle would be loud, kick up dirt everywhere, and make it difficult to do the things you normally do. No one signs up for that!
That is a taste of what marine creatures in the Halifax Harbour have been experiencing for decades. Big container ships, recreational boats, and ferries drive through their living rooms, making lots of noise and polluting their space.
Fortunately, the Halifax Harbour will be changing soon! However, before we talk about the good things coming our way, we need to talk about why things need to change – we need to talk about how animals in the Halifax Harbour are affected by noise pollution.
Halifax Harbour on a still morning (image credit: Charlotte Craig)
Whales are heavily impacted by boat noise, because they use echolocation to find their food and move around the ocean. Echolocation is when animals like whales and dolphins send out sounds in the water, and listen for those sounds to echo back to them, helping them figure out what is around them. While whales are rare visitors to the Harbour, some more common creatures are affected by noise, too.
Animals that you see in the Touch Tank Hut like crabs and urchins can also be affected by noise. Noise pollution can reduce all marine creature’s ability to communicate, navigate, locate prey, avoid predators, and find mates. Ecological acts that are key to ocean health that are performed by invertebrates, such as water filtration and mixing sediment layers, are also negatively affected by noise. Overall, noise stresses animals out and it stops them from doing all the things that they normally would.
Boats can also cause silt (ocean floor dirt) to be turned up which can make moving around very tricky. Boats can also leave behind unwanted fuel and other pollutants while they move through the water.
Thankfully, our sea friends will soon be catching a small break. Electric ferries are coming to the Halifax Harbour starting in 2022. Electric ferries are quieter and don’t use gas.
A Halifax Harbour ferry (image credit: Discover Halifax)
The new ferries will run on a new route from the Halifax terminal to a new terminal in Mill Cove. While it is only a small step in the right direction, hopefully it will lead to the province adopting more electric ferries and other transportation. Maybe one day, the Halifax-Alderney route will be electric, and the Touch Tank Hut residents will be spared the noise.
Just as we must wash our hands and keep our voice down in the Touch Tank Hut, it’s about time we start keeping the water clean and quiet for out ocean buddies in the Harbour!