With Noise Pollution Growing at Sea, A Texas Team Looks for Answers
by Mose Buchele
One of the insidious things about noise pollution is that it is invisible. While the long plume that rose after the Deepwater Horizon explosion is a discernible reminder of how oil can harm the ocean, the sound that explosion made is less tangible. But recent research shows that the noise caused by human activity, like noise from oil shipping and drilling, is having a negative impact on the marine ecosystem. That’s lead to new research and the possibility of new regulation, all aimed at keeping human activity quieter.
In one recent study, a group of researchers from the New England Aquarium gauged the stress levels of whales by measuring hormones in whale droppings. They discovered there was a brief window of time right after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks when whales appeared more relaxed than usual. Scientists think it might have something to do with the fact that shipping traffic was restricted in the weeks following 9/11.
In another study, researchers from Norway tracked fish catches in an area where seismic airguns were being used to explore for oil. The result: certain fish catches declined after the guns were used, while the presence of other species increased.
“If the data are correct and can be replicated, the issue comes down to: ‘Well, is this affecting fisheries around the world?’” Dr. Arthur Popper, a scientist with the Aquatic Bioacoustics Laboratory at the University of Maryland, posed to StateImpact Texas. “And as we do more things like developing wind farms, and oil exploration and geologic surveys and such, is this becoming a bigger and bigger issue?”…
(read more: NPR - State Impact) (photo: Luis Rabayo)
Here’s a link to the New England Aquarium right whale researchers post about the sound and stress findings. This year the team included some acoustic studies in their field season, and managed to make these recordings of mothers and calves communicating. Really drives home the importance of clear underwater acoustics for the well being of these animals.