Cacophony of human noise is hurting all marine life, scientists warn
A natural ocean soundscape is fundamental to healthy marine life but is being drowned out by an increasingly loud cacophony of noise from human activities, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the issue.
The damage caused by noise is as harmful as overfishing, pollution and the climate crisis, the scientists said, but is being dangerously overlooked. The good news, they said, is that noise can be stopped instantly and does not have lingering effects, as the other problems do.
Marine animals can hear over much greater distances than they can see or smell, making sound crucial to many aspects of life. From whales to shellfish, sealife uses sound to catch prey, navigate, defend territory and attract mates, as well as find homes and warn of attack. Noise pollution increases the risk of death and in extreme cases, such as explosions, kills directly.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning are also making the oceans more acidic, meaning the water carries sound further, leading to an even noisier ocean, the researchers said. But the movement of marine mammals and sharks into previously noisy areas when the Covid-19 pandemic slashed ocean traffic showed that marine life could recover rapidly from noise pollution, they said.