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Ocean Noise Pollution

Noise in the Oceans
In the marine environment, acoustics is of paramount importance. However, the world's oceans are getting louder and louder and the ocean noise pollution severely impacts marine life. In certain marine areas, the ocean noise level has doubled every ten years over the last sixty years. The increased ship traffic generates a heightened dense acoustic 'fog' that distorts the perception instincts of marine life. But those marine animals are dependent on their hearing to navigate, communicate, find a mating partner and catch prey.

Military sonars used to locate submarines are a particular danger, as their sound waves can be heard within an underwater radius of about 3,000 kilometers. Shipping, offshore oil platforms and the use of air guns in seismic oil & gas explorations all add to the ear-battering racket.

The most noticeable consequence of ocean noise pollution is the stranding of whales and other marine mammals. Strandings have been observed to be particularly frequent after naval sonar maneuver. These sonar systems can be as loud as a rocket launch (up to 240 decibels). Extreme sound events like these inflict vascular damage in the brain, lungs and other organs. It can also be the case that animals panic and surface far too soon.

Nitrogen bubbles in the blood lead to cases of the bends, and potentially deadly embolism. That is how injured or dead animals end up sinking to the seabed or getting beached on the coast.

As is the case for humans, marine animals are also susceptible to hearing damage as a result of extremely loud sounds. For many marine creatures, their hearing is a vital way to communicate, sense danger, find a partner and hunt prey. Hearing damage is not the only physical mark that ocean noise pollution can leave though. The shoaling structure of fish can be sent into chaos, impaired growth has been observed in shrimp and even cell changes have been detected in lobsters.

Ocean noise pollution leads to marine animals fleeing valuable habitats, never to return. Some are directly induced to flee, while others are compelled to as their prey have left. Ocean noise pollution has a disruptive impact in mating, finding prey and suckling the young, with some serious consequences in cases when species are already under threat for other reasons.

Ocean noise has a negative effect on at least 55 marine species. Yet, binding rules and limitations for noise-generating technologies at sea are still missing.

(Source: OceanCare)


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