Humans may be inadvertently wiping out marine life due to noise emanating from our machines, two recent studies purport.
The first study found that ship noises could hurt endangered killer whales. A second, published in Nature Communications (subscribe now, operators are standing by!), purportedly found that the noises our machines make underwater may actually be fatal to “smaller fish.”
The researchers, from Britain, Canada and Australia, point out that the planet’s coastal regions are “experiencing unprecedented human population growth.” The University of Bristol’s Andy Radford stated, “The combination of stress and poor responses to strikes by predators is why these fish became such easy prey.”
Or, it could be the fact that they are small fish. Small fish have been eaten by larger fish and other predators for some millions of years now. Nature, you see.
The team of scientists was led by Stephen Simpson of the University of Exeter. They say that the noise appeared to make the fish breathe more heavily, leading them to consume more oxygen and slowing their ability to respond to a dangerous situation, thereby increasing a predator’s success at capturing the fish. (I don’t know about you, but when I find myself breathing more heavily I usually respond quicker to the situation, but perhaps that’s a story best left for another time).
If mechanical noise is so dangerous to whales and porpoises, why do they so often swim alongside ships? And if the noise is so deadly to smaller fish, why doesn’t the same noise have that same affect on the predators, which are mainly larger fish? I mean, if it bothers the whales and the small fish…?
How did these fish make it through World War II with German U-Boats prowling about, sonar constantly pinging, sinking everything in sight (oil everywhere, too!) while Japanese Kamikaze pilots plowed into the sea like large, metallic ospreys?
Chill out, guys, your theory is all wet. Maybe evolution and survival of the fittest will work in this case, too.