Now Hear This! An Evaluation of the Impacts of Specific Anthropogenic Noise Types on Cetaceans

New types of guidelines needed to protect whales from ocean noise.

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Executive summary: It is well established that certain anthropogenic noises have a severe effect on whales. Many sounds that humans introduce into the sea today are without precedent in the evolutionary history of marine mammals and other ocean life. Seismic testing associated with oil and gas exploration, military SONAR, and other industrial sources of ocean noise have injured or killed dolphins and whales in many instances. Additionally, behavioral impacts can also be severe, with animals interrupting feeding, nursing, or reproductive activity to flee from disruptive or painful sounds. There is also evidence that whales may be subject to “masking,” where some types of noises interfere with their ability to communicate with each other. As the military and industrial producers of these sounds are required by law in some countries to prevent impacts to marine mammals, there has been considerable debate and litigation in response to this continuing problem.

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