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Considerable drop in ocean noise provides opportunity for research

Date: 05-May-20
Author: Liam Taylor

The sounds of whales are often drowned out amidst the noise created by human maritime activity.

The sounds of whales are often drowned out amidst the noise created by human maritime activity.

Researchers have noted a significant reduction in underwater noise pollution as a result of coronavirus restrictions allowing them to do something not always possible amongst the cacophony of human maritime activity: listen. 

The data comes from recordings of real-time underwater sound signals from seabed observatories run by Ocean Networks Canada. Researchers monitoring these signals found a notable drop in the levels of low-frequency sound on the seafloor off mainland British Columbia.

“There has been a consistent drop in noise since 1 January, which has amounted to a change of four or five decibels in the period up to 1 April,” said David Barclay, assistant professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University and co-author of the paper examining this data.

These low-frequency sounds are the same as what many baleen whales such as humpbacks and grey whales. With reduced maritime activity creating less of this noise pollution, researchers now have a unique opportunity to study the whales’ communication and potentially gain an insight into how our noise pollution affects it.

“We are facing a moment of truth,” Michelle Fournet, a marine acoustician at Cornell University, told The Narwhal

“We have an opportunity to listen – and that opportunity to listen will not appear again in our lifetime.”

There are other ocean scientists monitoring ocean sound around the globe, many of whom have been unable to check in on their recordings due to coronavirus restrictions. Once things return to normal, information from this window of quiet in the oceans could provide invaluable insights into the behaviour of these magnificent species.


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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