Human noise is overwhelming the seas’ natural soundscape

Photo credit: Claudiu Dobre licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in Discover reports on a search to find quiet places in the world’s oceans. Marine animals, from the least developed to apex species like dolphins and whales, use vibration and sound to find food, avoid predators, and to communicate with each other, including finding a mate.

Absent anthropogenic sound, the oceans are not silent but are filled with animal clicks, grunts, squeals, even songs. Unfortunately noise pollution threatens those dwelling in the ocean just as it threatens those living on land because they can’t hear normally when ambient noise increases.

When aircraft pass overhead and especially when boats using motors pass through the waters–from the smallest outboard to the largest tanker–the noise can literally be deafening for animals living in the seas.

The new information in the article is about a partnership of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Project and Oceans Initiative that will provide scientists around the world with microphones to map ocean soundscapes.

Quieter oceans may be key to survival of endangered groups of marine mammals.

As one of the researchers noted, “Silence is golden. We are running out of time to protect the last acoustic refuges in the ocean.”

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