Windsor

Shipping noise causing problems for wildlife in the Arctic

A new study says that because of receding ice in the Arctic, there's more underwater noise by shipping traffic. Because of that, the habits of the Arctic cod are being affected.

'All this noise is making them leave the area' says researcher

Researchers have said Arctic cod are the "most important" link in Arctic marine ecosystems, so disturbing their habits can impact food availability for other marine wildlife and for native Arctic communities.  ((Dieter Craasmann))

A new study out of the University of Windsor says that because of receding ice in the Arctic, there's more underwater noise by shipping traffic. Because of that, Arctic cod's habits are being affected.

Silviya Ivanova, lead author of the study and Ph.D. student at the University of Windsor, said the study was first started after Inuit in the area were complaining about the noise scaring away wildlife. 

"All this noise is making them leave the area," said Ivanova. "They like a quiet area. We don't know yet what the actual repercussions [are]."

Researchers have said Arctic cod are the "most important" link in Arctic marine ecosystems, so disturbing their habits can impact food availability for other marine wildlife and for native Arctic communities. 

Ivanova and the research team used hydrophones to record the noise transmitted by ships. They also recorded one day where no ships went through to get a baseline reading for no noise.

Researchers spent five weeks for two summers in a row to acquire the data needed for the study. 

"Our results identify yet another stresser to consider in the rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem," said Aaron Fisk, professor at the University of Windsor, Canada Research Chair and Pew Marine Fellow. "The noise associated with increasing ship traffic needs to be considered in management and conservation efforts."

The study noted that it's unclear if Arctic cod will aclimatize to the noise or if it will be a long-term problem. 

Cruise ship traffic in the Arctic has doubled in the last 20 years, with ice coverage reducing by about half from 2000-2012. The data showed this has resulted in a 10-12 decibel increase in noise levels.

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