Category: Ocean Life

Save the Whales! Really!

When OCR Program Director Kathi Koontz came on board with our team earlier this year she had one request:  that we give her some flexibility to participate in saving whales.  While this is part of OCR’s mission, Kathi was referring…

Guest Post on Mission Blue: UN IMO Shipping Noise Standards

I was invited to write a guest post on the new IMO standards for the Mission Blue website. The upshot is that the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a set of noise guidelines that if followed by member…

Beaked whale strandings associated with NATO navy exercises

Yesterday, April 1st five beaked whales were found stranded near Ierapetra on the south-east side of the Greek Island of Crete. This stranding occurred concurrently with an annual Greek, Israeli, and US Joint Naval operation named “Nobel Dina 2014” where…

Fish Ears and Ocean Noise

Although much of the concerns about ocean noise orbits around the impact of noise on marine mammals, I have been equally concerned about the impacts of noise on the fish. At first brush fish don’t seem as charismatic as whales and dolphins; but as a class, fish are rather amazing. They’re also a pretty important feature in marine ecosystems (and the feeding habits of other vertebrates – like us humans). So while public sentiment has driven a lot of research on the impacts of noise on marine mammals (and the resulting protective regulations) fish are also subject to the impacts of human-generated noise.

This shows up occasionally when fishing catches plummet after seismic surveys, or after research team finds that larval fish imprint and navigate to sounds, including sounds that are not natural to their habitat. Noise impacts on fish came up again last week in a published study finding that the recorded sound of ship noise disrupted feeding behavior and foraging success of two species of freshwater fish.

I have a few technical bones to pick with the study: The tanks were much smaller than the wavelengths of most of the disruptive sounds, and the source of ship noise (played back through speakers) would not typically be in such close proximity to the impacted subjects.  But it isn’t really too surprising that unnatural noise disrupts fish behavior; these animals depend on acoustical energy to sense their surroundings – finding prey, avoiding predation, establishing their relations with others, etc. And the paper does provide some numbers to substantiate the case.

With our current state of knowledge about how and what fish do with the sounds they hear it would be difficult to predict how any particular sound might impact any fish in their particular ecosystems. But we know that fish are sound-sensitive so we can assume that they will interact with the sounds of their surroundings. If the sounds are introduced by non-biological sources, it would be a good idea to know how fish respond.

NOAA/NMFS Acoustic Guidelines reviewed

I’ve just finished the OCR review and critique of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) draft “Marine Mammal Acoustic Guidelines” – a proposed set of metrics to help determine when exposing marine mammals to noise will induce “Temporary” or “Permanent”  Threshold…

Acoustic Tour of Massachusetts Bay

Enjoy this quick overview of sounds in Massachusetts Bay, courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

2013, A Fantastic Year!

We’re looking back at 2013 with a lot of gratitude for the opportunites that were presented to us and where we were able to take them. And none of this could have been done without your support. With the sponsorship…

Munching Data

I spent last week “hiding out” in San Francisco at an Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting. I’ve been a member and attending these meetings for about fifteen years and have seen both the society and the inquiry evolve much…

Even marine invertebrates suffer our noisy habits

Quite a number of years ago Earth Island sponsored a “Literature Review” paper on marine animal hearing we called “Fish Ears” It was presented at the US Navy-sponsored “Environmental Consequences of Underwater Sound” (ECOUS) conference in San Antonio Texas and…

Bio-inspired communication signals

Of the many papers presented this week at the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers/Marine Technology Society (IEEE/MTS) Ocean conference two really stood out as possible solutions to the impacts of communication signals on marine mammals. These papers discussed using…