Whales, squid, fish, crabs and shellfish are all suffering from the rising din being made by propellers, engines and subsea drilling, prompting demands for quieter ships and the introduction of “quiet areas” in the seas.
Hundreds of marine biologists from across the world are gathering this weekend in Glasgow for the International Marine Conservation Congress, organised by the Society for Conservation Biology. They will hear mounting evidence of the widespread damage to animals being done by underwater noise.
Over the last half-century low frequency noise in the oceans has increased by at least 20 decibels. Most of the noise comes from ships, which are carrying three times the weight of cargo they did in 1970, amounting to more than 80 per cent of all the world’s freight transport.
A series of expert studies from three continents have shown a large variety of ways in which noise can harm wildlife. Squid and octopus were found to suffer “massive acoustic trauma” destroying hair cells vital for balance and orientation.
Scallop larvae were delayed and deformed by noise, the internal organs and ovaries of snow crabs were bruised and eels showed signs of stress. In another study, noise killed the eggs and young of sea hares.