What’s Going On Here?

The COVID-19 lockdown has provided scientists with a once in a life-time opportunity to examine the impacts of a quieter ocean on marine life.

What Does This Mean?

We know that wildlife in cities has benefited from less traffic, cleaner air and less people on the streets, but a steep reduction in sea traffic is also good news for mammals and other animal life down in the deep blue.Researchers working near the port of Vancouver have found a significant drop in low-frequency sound associated with ships after examining real-time underwater sound signals from seabed observatories run by Ocean Networks Canada. Between January and April, there has been a reduction of four or five decibels, thanks to the roughly 10% drop in exports and imports.

Scientists around the world are said to be on “tenterhooks” waiting to find out the results of this natural experiment.

Why Should We Care?

Cast your mind back to the time when you still took public transport and a fellow passenger decided to play their music VERY loudly with no headphones. Right next to you. Now, imagine that all day and all night.

This gives some sense of what it’s like for marine life, particularly sea mammals who are the most sensitive to noise. The source of this din comes from; shipping traffic, oil and gas activity, wind turbines and more. While the results of this ongoing experiment have not yet been concluded, we know from data gathered during a landmark study post 9/11 (where shipping traffic radically decreased), that fewer ships in the waters along the US-Canadian coast correlated with lower stress hormones in whales.

As well as causing distress, extremely loud sounds can also cause hearing damage among sea life, reducing their ability to communicate, sense danger, find a partner or hunt prey. Ocean noise pollution also causes marine animals to flee and abandon valuable habitats.

Be Curious!

While environmental action is curtailed in many ways at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep informed, learn new skills and support charities that are still working to protect our oceans.