The ocean is not a quiet place

Photo credit: Trygve Finkelsen

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report by PhD candidate Thomas Uboldi, University of Quebec at Rimouski, on discusses noise pollution in the world’s oceans. Uboldi notes that many still think oceans are quiet, based on Jaques Cousteau’s 1953 book and 1956 documentary, both with the titleThe Silent World.

Research over subsequent decades, perhaps based on more time spent underwater, perhaps aided by technological developments in measuring and recording underwater sound, have shown that the oceans are filled with sounds made by fish, shrimp, and marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

Uboldi’s research looks at the smallest animals, such as oyster larvae and other mollusks, which appear to be influenced by noise in a variety of ways. For example, the oyster larvae seem to settle where they can hear noise made by other oysters, because that indicates that the area is a good place to settle. Other animals warn of predators by making noise, just as birds warn each other of hawks in the air. Unfortunately, underwater noise pollution interferes with animal communication and food finding.

Uboldi concludes that “[k]nowing that the use of sound in the marine environment is much more widespread than previously thought, it is essential to understand the consequences of an increase in noise pollution in our oceans, and the noise that’s most harmful to life must be limited so that the ocean’s many inhabitants can return to their usual soundscape.”

Even underwater, a quieter world would be a better and healthier world, just as on the surface.

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