Smog Under The Sea

Humans have created a smog of sorts under the sea in the form of noise.

In my early teens, I used to dive in the local river – it was an amazing world full of its own sounds and I particularly remember the sound of shellfish “crackling”.

If there was a boat in the area, you’d often hear an annoying buzzing sound under the water long before you would see the boat. During tourist season, the cacophony became quite intense.

Even as a kid I wondered about the effects of the noise on fish and other creatures of the river; both in the water and along its shoreline.

In the years since, we’ve been learning that marine noise pollution is quite a serious problem.

For example, the noise of passing ships disrupts feeding for the common shore crab and raises their metabolic rate and energy needs. I can relate to that, I can feel my blood pressure rising every time some moron turns up their “doof doof” music or fires up a noisy dirt bike in my area.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, noise can “blind” some sea creatures, lead others to abandon their habitat and in some cases, die – such as in the case of squid.

A particularly dangerous source of marine noise pollution is generated by the – surprise, surprise – fossil fuel industry.

Aside from other activities, high-volume air guns used to search for oil and gas offshore can generate noise levels of 200 decibels. The threshold where pain is caused to humans is around 120 decibels – and bear in mind that 200 dB isn’t just 60% louder – but by an order of magnitude. It’s comparable to the roar of a Saturn Rocket firing. That type of noise level under the water, which carries sound so well, must be excruciating to any creature in the area sensitive to noise.

Noise pollution – either under the water or above, is a seriously underrated environmental issue.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to “go placidly among the noise and haste” as the Desiderata counsels; and I’d hate to think “remember what peace there may be in silence” becomes only that – a memory.