Noise Pollution Harms Fish Populations, Locations, Habits

clownfish photo

Photo by Puliarf via Flickr CC

Whales aren't the only marine species negatively affected by human-generated noise pollution in the oceans. Sound is an important, and well developed sense in many fish, more species of which are being threatened by the increase in noise made by oil and gas rigs, ships, boats and sonar. In a new review, scientists look at how the rise in sounds over the last hundred years as humans have taken to the oceans has impacted fish species, from their locations to their reproduction. The BBC writes that 80% of global freight transport is done by motorized shipping and the global shipping fleet is made up of around 1.2 million vessels. When you combine this with findings that species such as Atlantic herring, cod, and blue-fin tuna flee sounds, scientists conclude that the noise pollution could be having a dramatic impact on fish distributions.

Published in ScienceDirect, the review shows that different fish have different sensitivities to sound, and while some have ultra-sensitive hearing, most hear best within 30-1000Hz. As scientists study fish sounds more, they're discovering how reliant fish are on sounds - making them while fighting over territories, food, or mates. Essentially, life for fish is not much different than life for most other species living in habitats impacted by humans - they're having trouble hearing, and therefore doing a lot of other things.

The authors of the review admit that noise pollution is lower on the scale of the destruction humans are playing on fish populations; still, it is a significant problem that receives little attention because to humans living in air, the water seems like a silent place. But not to the animals adapted to live there. Just as our health falters when we're exposed to noise pollution, so too do other living things. From giant whales down to even baby corals who use sound to find a place to lodge in the reef and create a home, sounds have a profound impact on marine life.

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