Monday, 8 May 2017

Seals are deafened in noisy shipping lanes, say scientists

Urbanisation of marine environment impacts on seal hearing and is comparable to noise pollution of inner cities

Seals are being temporarily deafened by underwater noise in the UK’s busy shipping lanes, a new study suggests. Researchers compared the experience of the seals to that of people living amid the din of inner cities.

Dr Esther Jones, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews, said: “Like humans living in busy, noisy cities, some seals live in areas where there is a lot of shipping traffic and associated noise.

“The UK has some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and underwater noise has been increasing over the last 30 years.”

Her team drew up maps showing the extent to which grey and harbour seals around the UK were affected by shipping traffic. The scientists then investigated noise levels that individual animals were likely to be subjected to in Moray Firth on the north-east coast of Scotland.

For 20 of the 28 seals studied, the predicted noise from shipping was loud enough to cause temporary hearing loss. The maps showed that 11 of 25 special areas of conservation may contain seals affected by shipping.

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