For humans, the ocean is a picture of tranquility. People could find oceans silent, with only the movement of waves to be deciphered, but this isn’t the perception of aquatic species.
Marine animals communicate through sounds. They migrate, locate food, and trace prey using sounds. And with all the noise the humans generate, their form of communication is disrupted.
|Image source: SSPA.se|
Throughout the years, oceanic noise pollution has increased because of human activities like industrial work, particularly oil and gas explorations, military exercises, and most especially overseas commercial shipping. Such loud noises cause confusion and distress among marine animals.
NYTimes.com shares that the rising clamor is dangerous to marine mammals, as the creatures are dependent on their acute hearing to locate food.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) then hopes to “silence” the issue through the Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap. Currently in its drafting stage, the new strategy roadmap is a 1o-year plan to create the world’s first large sound maps using colorful visualizations that will indicate sounds emanating from ocean depths.
|Image source: Youtube.com|
At the moment, the team working on this plan is focusing on research about the cumulative effects of sound on ocean animals. Although studies like this have been going on for years, most of them focus on marine mammals like whales and dolphins. However, there’s still a lot to learn according to marine ecologists, especially because the level of ocean noise at present affect various species like shrimps, sea urchins, and other invertebrates, which are harder to analyze. This presents further challenge to the completion of the study.
In creating the roadmap, scientists do not confine themselves to manmade noise. Climate change, and how it adds to the stress experienced by marine animals, is also tackled. It is said that sound travels faster in warmer water, hence, sound transmission is faster in warming ocean, making marine animals more susceptible to noise.
NOAA believes that by determining the various effects of sound to aquatic life, it can design better tools for noise reduction and management by 2026. While the goal is clear, NOAA faces far more challenges, including coordination with federal agencies like the Department of Transportation. It must be noted that fleets of global commercial ships are the primary contributor to ocean noise.
Dr. Russ Lea works with various organizations to build and fund research facilities and tech parks across the country. For more topics related to this, visit this blog.