The World of silence?
In 1955 the famous French popularizer Jacques Costeau published one of the pioneering documentaries on underwater life: The world of silence. Since then, knowledge about the ocean has advanced by leaps and bounds, and in a few years the importance that sound under the sea has for the communication of species such as cetaceans was confirmed.
Over time it has become evident not only cetaceans, but that many other marine organisms, such as fish, invertebrates or even algae, generate sound under the sea. The reality is that the ocean is not the world of silence, under the sea there is an enormous diversity of sounds produced by marine organisms and also by natural phenomena that build unique soundscapes.
Sound and noise
Underwater soundscapes are built from three sources: biophony, geophony and anthrophony.
In the ocean, biophony represents the set of sounds produced by all living organisms, both animals and plants. This includes the vocalizations of cetaceans, the noise of fish or invertebrates when browsing, the movement of algae beaten by the waves or the bubbling of oxygen production by marine plants.
Geophony encompasses all the sounds produced by non-living elements of the marine ecosystem, the beating of the waves, the rain on the surface of the sea, the dragging of the pieces of shells by the effect of the waves, etc.
Finally, there is the anthrophony, which is a newcomer to the ocean, and is made up of all the sounds produced by human activities, from the propellers of ships, the turbines of jet skis, the explosions of oil exploration, the foundations from offshore wind turbines, divers' bubbles or sonars. Virtually all anthropophony in the ocean disturbs and pollutes soundscapes, endangering the proper functioning of the ecosystem. For this reason, the vast majority of man-made sounds at sea are considered noise from a biological point of view.
The dangers of underwater noise
All human activities that generate underwater noise can disturb marine species and ecosystems, reducing their ability to travel, communicate and find food. Underwater landscapes are rapidly changing due to the large-scale decline in marine organisms that produce sounds (biophony), to the alteration of the geophony by man-made phenomena of global change and, simultaneously, to the increase in intensity and variety of anthropogenic noise.
The accumulated scientific evidence shows that underwater noise is a dangerous pollutant that cannot be ignored, and that national and international policies must be put in place to regulate and mitigate the sources of anthropogenic noise at sea. Currently only one of the major international agreements on protection of the sea takes into account noise as a polluting factor that must be evaluated and monitored, the Framework Directive on Marine Strategy of the European Union. However, the implementation of the measures proposed by the directive to monitor underwater noise is being carried out unevenly and with delay in the different member countries.
What can we do?
As a society, we must demand that governments put in place underwater noise control and monitoring systems, and that regulations be developed to reduce and mitigate its impact on marine organisms, especially in places with the greatest richness and biological diversity.
Loro Parque Fundación is promoting a request to the European Commission to reinforce its commitment to reducing the negative effects of underwater noise on marine biodiversity, urging member states to immediately implement Special Conservation Areas marine systems of the Natura 2000 Network the noise monitoring and control systems established in the Framework Directive on Marine Strategy. If you want to collaborate with this initiative and protect the European network of marine conservation areas from underwater noise, sign this petition.