Growing ocean noise is impacting whales

Photo credit: Pixabay

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

The title of this article from the University of Melbourne is: “How Whales Struggle to Navigate in a Sea of Noise Pollution.” However the focus of the piece is on a research project that seeks to develop mathematical models to predict how whales can navigate the noisy oceans of our future. Scientists already know that ocean noise has negative effects on marine life, making it more difficult for them to find mates and food. Author and researcher Dr. Stuart Johnston believes there is a need for additional research to examine these effects, as he expects shipping activity and offshore construction to increase in the future. Both of these phenomenons will bring about higher noise levels in our oceans.

Scientists propose that higher noise levels will make it more difficult for whales to communicate, to identify their surroundings and even lead them to avoid certain areas of the ocean. The scientists developed models that allow them to better understand how future increases in noise will affect whale migration. Their models noted differences in whale behavior depending on the severity of the noise levels. In some cases, the model predicted whales’ inability to migrate, which would be “catastrophic” for that population of whales.

Johnston and his colleagues hope that other scientists will test out their models by observing whales’ behavior. It is important to understand how noise from increased shipping traffic and the construction of offshore wind farms will impact whales in our oceans. We must study this phenomenon “so that we co-exist sustainability with our spectacular marine wildlife,” Johnston said. I could not agree more.

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