Photo by: by wildestanimal

by wildestanimal

The Ocean is Too Loud for Marine Life

Marine life is asking you to turn the music down - when you’re around or in the ocean- please!

February 13, 2021

Have you ever had the feeling where it’s so loud you can’t think? Did you ever think a fish could experience that feeling, too? A recent paper published in Science titled “Soundscape of the Anthropocene Oceans”, combined over 10,000 scientific papers and 25 authors, confirming that undersea life knows that exact same feeling, more often than not! Anthropogenic ocean noise, aka underwater noise pollution, has created a dramatic impact on marine life due to “human-caused” activity within and neighboring our oceans.



False Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) swims in its host anemone, currently closed with little room for the iconic fish. Photographed underwater in Anilao, Philippines.

Photo by: Brent Durand

Brent Durand

Disney Pixar’s animated film Finding Nemo educated us about the ocean, and specifically within the ordinary world of a clown fish. A fact many may not know is that clown fish spend the first part of their lives as larvae, drifting with the current of the ocean until they’re strong enough to swim against it. Once they’re mighty and strong, they head home, only there’s one catch- the fish can’t physically see the reef, but they can hear it- “snapping, grunting, gurgling.” All these sounds are signs of a healthy reef. The only upside is, if they can’t hear it, will they ever make it home?

Our anthropogenic ocean noise, such as cargo ships, ship and boat propellers, surfing, deep sea mining, etc. are causing havoc on marine life. According to Time Magazine, “sound is the sensory cue that travels the farthest through the ocean.” Without the sense of sound, “anthropogenic noise drowns out the natural soundscapes, putting marine life under immense stress”, The New York Times states. Altogether, this stress then affects their “overall health, disrupting their behavior, physiology, reproduction and, in extreme cases, causing mortality.” Marine life can adapt to noise pollution, however, only if they can escape it. This only renders further complications of straying species from their traditional breeding regions or separating them from their families.



Marine traffic of a busy harbour from above. Nautical vessels cruising different directions at the port.

Photo by: Felix Cesare

Felix Cesare

Now, what if we told you there’s already a solution. Multiple remedies, ideas and designs currently in the works, or already exist to eliminate and reverse the damage of anthropogenic ocean noise. As Time explains, “[f]rom wind-powered ships to noise-reducing propellers, floating wind turbines and “bubble curtains'' that muffle construction noise, the solutions are already available and in some cases, cost effective.” The authors of the paper hope it will catch policymakers' attention, who historically speaking have ignored the matter, still to this day.



The shark is eating a lionfish, which is considered an invasive species in the Caribbean. Lionfish are now hunted by concerned divers who are trying to reduce or remove the non-native species from local waters and are sometimes offered to other larger animals, such as sharks and grouper in hopes that the lionfish will be recognized as a known food source, available without the intervention of divers.

Photo by: Stephen Frink

Stephen Frink

Of all the challenges the ocean is tackling to battle, luckily sound pollution is the easiest compromise humans can make. Once the noise has decreased, marine life will be able to better navigate everything else it’s up against.

More About Oceanic Noise Pollution

Underwater Noise Pollution Strikes the Wrong Chord

Meet Morgan J. Martin, PhD, a marine scientist who studies underwater sounds with whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Morgan observes how these marine creatures – also known as cetaceans – many of which navigate their underwater habitats through echolocation.

NATURE | Sounds of the Ocean 01:00

Take one minute to enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean and watch stunning scenes of crashing waves to swimming dolphins and whales. But with sound levels in the oceans rising constantly, noise pollution can interfere with marine mammals like whales and their ability to effectively communicate. This video includes some research/footage courtesy of University of Southern Denmark.

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