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  • Writer's pictureNhanta

Did you know: The Consequences Of Underwater Noise For Ocean Life 🎥

About 70% of our planet is covered by oceans and seas. They are a source of food, means of transportation, oxygen producer, and much more.

Marine life - or sea life or ocean life - is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of the sea or ocean, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life affects the nature of the planet. Marine organisms, mostly microorganisms, produce oxygen and sequester carbon. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.

Marine animals rely on sound to acoustically sense their surroundings, communicate, locate food and protect themselves underwater. Marine mammals, whales for example, use sound to identify objects such as food, obstacles, and other whales. By emitting clicks, or short pulses of sound, marine mammals can listen for echoes and detect prey items, or navigate around objects. These animal’s senses function just like the sonar systems on navy ships. It is clear that producing and hearing sound is vital to marine mammal survival.

Humpback whale with calf

School of Dolphins (Jake Khuon/Flickr)

Sadly, an overlooked catastrophe has developed in our modern technology world.

Marine animals depend on their hearing for navigation, communication and catching prey. But sound levels in our oceans are rising constantly with military sonar used to locate submarines. This is particularly dangerous, as those sound waves interfere with the animals hearing within a radius of about 3.000 kilometres (we highly recommend to watch the video at the end of the blog). There is also shipping, offshore oil rigs and the use of airguns in seismic oil exploration.

The most striking consequence of ocean noise pollution is the stranding of whales and dolphins. Strandings have been observed to be particularly frequent after naval sonar manoeuvres. Extreme sound events like these inflict vascular damage on the brain, lungs and other organs. The animals may also panic and surface too fast which causes the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood (so-called bends - decompression sickness). Death might be the result of an emerging embolism.

We continuously read or hear about beached whales, for example: On the 22nd of February 2021 in Wellington/New Zealand, volunteers successfully refloated stranded whales but concerns remained that they might beach themselves again overnight.

Twenty-eight were alive, while fifteen were known to have died.

Around the world there has been an unprecedented amount of marine-life washing up on shores by the thousands either dead or dying - Navy Sonar Tests Killing Tens of Thousands of Marine Life

Just as for humans, extremely loud sound may cause hearing damage in marine animals. This is a serious problem for the many marine creatures depending on their hearing for communication, sensing danger, finding a partner and hunting prey. Other physical consequences of ocean noise pollution are also disruption of the schooling structure of fish or impaired growth of shrimp as a food source for other marine life, even cell changes have been detected in lobsters. Noise means stress and results in the impairment of the animals immune system which makes them more susceptible to illness in general.

Ocean noise pollution also causes marine animals to flee and abandon valuable habitats, either because of direct impact or because they have to follow their fleeing prey. Ocean noise pollution has a disruptive impact on mating, finding food and nursing young – with grave consequences in populations that are already weakened by other environmental impacts.

🎥 (3:54) Underwater noise - the overlooked catastrophe

Whales stranding, shoals of fish collapsing, sea turtles fleeing: extreme noise is harming marine life. Noise caused by military sonar tests, the search for oil and gas, and giant ship propellers. Help us by joining the worldwide campaign SILENT OCEANS.

Ocean ecosystems have to be protected urgently by the creation of Marine Reserves (or Protected Zones), that protect special places from all kinds of threats - including those posed by auditory contamination. We have to create those ocean sanctuaries desperately. Let's raise more awareness, so that collectively we can change the world to be a better place. Let’s find a way to convince the political leaders to create a global network of marine reserves.

3 big reasons why we need ocean sanctuaries now

  • More ocean sanctuaries - more life! Studies have shown that ocean sanctuaries, also known as “no take” marine reserves, quadruple the biomass of animals and plants and also vastly increase their size.

  • Plenty of fish (and money) in the sea.

  • Marine sanctuaries can help protect us from the effects of climate change

Heart Reef is a stunning composition of coral in the Great Barrier Reef/Australia, naturally formed in the shape of a heart. (PxHere)

The “Marine Protection Atlas” brings together the best available information on marine protection around the world, so that the marine conservation community can work together to protect at least 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.

One of our earlier blogs from March 2018 demonstrates what can be achieved:

Chile has created a new law protecting the waters along its 6,400 kilometre coastline. Have a read...



Ocean Care Switzerland (viewed 06.04.2021)

National Geographic, Marine Sanctuaries (viewed 06.04.2021)


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