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How Noise Pollution Affects the Marine Ecosystem

Learn the dire consequences that artificial sound poses to the underwater world.
William Brown Dec 3, 2019

Prelude

While this may be an unexplored subject, its effects on our oceans' ecology are remarkably frightening. The marine world is filled with natural sounds from the tiniest of clicks to the high-pitched tones and rumbles.

This is essential for their communication, awareness and other vital necessities – marine life depends on these sounds.
Noise pollution involves the negative footprint left on the oceans by boats, machinery, military sonars, offshore developments, fracking etc. Intense underwater noise from heavy industrial works will wreak havoc on various fish species, resulting in death.

It may interfere with their ability to find food, mates, and may negatively influence their instinct.
Scientists are worried about the disturbance, distortion, and even destruction that artificial noise poses to aquatic life, all thanks to humanity. Because sound travels in water much easier and further than on land, the risk of noise pollution paints a much more serious picture.
For example; just like noise-canceling earbuds (see this website) which allows us to listen to music by insulating the sound and preventing it from being heard on the outside - in so doing, other people aren't disturbed. So we should strive to do the same concept for any activity we aim to do on the ocean.

The following are the main effects of noise pollution

Communication

As most of us know, communication in the animal world is the cornerstone of all activity. From finding food, roaming the habitat and seeking shelter from impending disaster.

All of this and the broader scope is dependent on communication and it so happens that this communication is transmitted in the medium we classify as sound.
Now if this sound is interfered with, we as humans can only imagine how the communication of these animals is affected. Marine life is constantly ‘talking’ with one another, if a predator were to approach the surrounding area; they would communicate and send out warning signals.

This is a crucial and smart tactic used against predators.
If a boat were passing by or an artificial sound was emitted, that vital marine communication would be interfered with causing definite confusion. This is just a simple example to show the ripple effect.

Possible solutions could include restricting boats and vessels from going over shallow waters where coral reefs are located.
As the fight for a greener earth continues, measures like restricting oil drillings, military naval exercises, fish harvesting would only be beneficial.

And although some scientists and researchers are not on the same page, they do agree that there’s some evident behaviour changes whenever a disturbance occurs.

Health

Damage to the hearing capabilities of fish due to seismic sounds such as air guns and sonars is commonly associated. This type of exposure threatens their posterity and the mortality rates are drastically spiked as a result.

Migration is also affected and it indirectly affects us humans as well when it comes to the fishing industry.
Although it has been studied and noted that bigger species such as wales are more resistant to these noises, smaller species such as prawns, krill and various fish are negatively impacted – making the food chain much more vulnerable and volatile.

Basically anything, no matter how small will destabilize the ecosystem in some way.

Last Word

Informing the public is a great way to create awareness of the problems facing the underwater world. In turn, this conservation expedition will be advanced to let even more people know about the dangers threatening the marine ecosystem.

Soon enough governments and corporates will also be confronted. Let's work together to protect this precious ecosystem.