Even in eastern Washington, humans may have a bigger impact on the ocean than they realize.
The WSU School of the Environment held a seminar last Friday on the WSU campus, which featured faculty candidate Steve Katz speaking with the community about the impacts of the global shipping trade on oceanic life.
Katz, a research coordinator for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, presented a map of shipping route trajectories that outlined the world continents and displayed several circle routes between major ports.
“These interactions between global shipping and local conservation can take the form of concrete physical interactions or more subtle indirect interactions,” Katz said.
Katz presented a slideshow titled “Human Uses of the Marine Environment: Data Synthesis to Understand Global-to-Local Influences and Impacts,” and also included the physical and indirect interactions between large ships and large whales.
In marine graphs, Katz showed the traffic lanes of boats traveling through the coast of southern California and plotted data points of blue and humpback whales in the same areas.
However, Katz said there is an intrinsic risk of collision when whales and ships tend to occupy the same area, resulting in multiple whale deaths.
“The reason it becomes a management issue is because it shows up above the fold on the LA Times,” Katz said. “Collisions have occurred for a long time and they will continue to occur.”
Neil Luther, office assistant for the WSU School of Environment, said Katz is a faculty candidate for the college and has already met with several members of the department.
“I really enjoyed his presentation and I thought it was easy to understand,” Luther said. “I’m not well-versed with his expertise of environmental science and natural resources.”
In addition, Luther said he liked Katz’s research in the presentation and the movement outlines of container ships.
Luther is from eastern Washington and said he never really considered the impacts of humans on the ocean, but the information would definitely interest students who want to learn more about maritime activities.
“The way I see it, you can do the research but how can be used as an application?” Luther said. “It gave me something to chew on.”
In addition, the presentation included mapping grids of the West Coast from different research models, which displayed the frequency of increasing winds in the ocean and the distribution of the events.
Due to the number of high wind events at 15 knots or 20 knots, Katz said the implication shows that fishermen will need to have bigger boats.
With indirect impacts in the ocean, Katz said he has also been closely evaluating commercial ship noises and acoustics because they make the most significant sounds in the ocean.
Moreover, Katz said there have been movements from several environmental groups which have pushed a decrease in sounds in the ocean and to include more regulation on the use of sounds.
“It decreases communication range and animals have to shout louder to be heard amongst themselves,” Katz said. “And there are some arguments that it actually has physiological responses elevating stress and hormone levels.”
The seminar was also made available to the WSU campuses of Vancouver, Wenatchee and the Tri-Cities.