Why are cetaceans stranding themselves on China’s coasts?

Photo credit: 7inchs

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Cetaceans are whales. What’s leaving them stranded on China’s coasts?

The Sixth Tone website–surprisingly (at least to me), sponsored by the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese Communist Party–claims to offer a fresh perspective on what it calls “the uncommon stories of common people.” The name of the website refers to the five tones in the spoken Chinese language. Sixth Tone features translations and cross-publications from respected Chinese and international media outlets, as selected and edited by Sixth Tone.

And it’s surprising to see coverage of noise pollution in a publication sponsored by one of the world’s great polluters. In this case, though, the pollution isn’t coming from coal, or from industrial waste dumped on the ground or in rivers–it’s coming from anthropogenic noise.

As the report notes:

Over the past 30 years, the number of reported cetacean strandings — including mass strandings — has increased rapidly along China’s extensive coastline, according to a February study from the Institute of Deep-sea Science and Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. About one-third of them have been identified as threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The recent stranding of a sperm whale, a toothed whale species, is discussed in detail.

Oceans are noisy and China’s rivers are even noisier, with 90% of monitoring sites in the Yangtze River recording sound levels high enough to cause temporary hearing loss, endangering the world’s only freshwater porpoise, the Yangtze finless porpoise.

The Yangtze and Pearl River estuaries are particularly problematic.

We hope that China and all countries will take steps to reduce anthropogenic noise pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers.

A quieter world will be a better and healthier world for all, including species that live in the water.

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