Featured Image Credit: Charlie Philips
By Alice Morris
A new study suggests that noise pollution from underwater acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) may be harming marine wildlife.
In the study, researchers from the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the UK Government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee found that ADDs may cause “large-scale underwater noise pollution.”
Over 130 fish farms off Scotland’s west coast utilize ADDs to deter seals, but these noise alarms may make it more difficult for whales, dolphins, and porpoises to navigate the oceans and communicate with one another.
Farmers in Scotland used to shoot seals to prevent predation on fish stocks, but after the US threatened to stop importing salmon from countries that practiced this controversial method, the popularity of ADDs rose.
Scientists believe that this recent increase in ADDs could lead to permanent hearing loss in many marine animals. It may also cause cetaceans to beach themselves due to stress and disorientation.
According to an e-mail released under the Freedom of Information law by the Scottish Natural History wildlife agency, the new study found that signals produced by ADDs could be detected 20 to 30 kilometers away.
Anti-fish-farming campaigners have already begun filing complaints to the European Commission regarding the failure to protect cetaceans from the effects of ADDs and demanding an immediate ban on acoustic deterrents on Scotland’s fish farms.
However, these demands put fish farmers in a difficult position, as Don Staniford, director of Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, points out:
Because many of Scotland’s cetaceans are protected species, the negative effects of ADDs are especially problematic.
Caroline Carter, a SNH marine biologist says they are “actively working on this issue” and that the agency is “already in discussion with the aquaculture industry to develop smarter use of acoustic deterrents to reduce the risk of unintended impacts on cetaceans.”
More extensive research is necessary to determine the full effect of ADDs, but hopefully this new study will pave the way to a safer, quieter ocean for marine life.