UNDERWATER NOISE – HELL FOR OCEAN CREATURES

UNDERWATER NOISE IS HELL FOR OCEAN CREATURES.

Noise is the stuff of nightmares. Constant noise over a period of time can drive people insane.

Marine creatures are no different.  Sound is the currency of their world and the means of survival .

Human created noise on top of the background sounds of waves, rain, wind and storms can have deadly results.

As the demand for energy rapidly escalates, resource exploration and exploitation is increasingly focused on the marine environment.   In the US and Europe, seismic and military operations have to comply with legislation and rigorous scientific conditions before they can commence.   Research on the impacts of noise in the ocean and appropriate mitigation measures are at the forefront of US politics and science.

In Australia, an urgent demand for major port developments to service the exponential growth of the resource industry threaten the integrity of the Great Barrier Reef.   Destined to take 20 years to become fully operational, the four LNG developments at Gladstone ensure a massive cumulative impact on all marine life within a significant radius.

In Gladstone Harbor and the Western Basin, acoustic trauma caused by increased vessel traffic, pile driving, dredging and construction activities have the capacity to cause death and deafness.   Without hearing, reproduction may be permanently inhibited, communication masked, ability to locate prey and avoid predators compromised . A diminished immune response caused by constant stress expose the animal to serious vulnerability.

Every species of marine creature in question has a receptor system for detecting the signal and noise frequency.   Different types of noises have different effects.   The scale of noise disturbance must be considered, particularly if it’s continual over a long period.

Approvals and conditions by the Federal and State governments basically ignore the impact of noise on the marine environment.

Although the conditions imposed on Gladstone Port Corporation through the corporation’s commissioning of the Environment Research Monitoring Program (ERMP) for the Port of Gladstone Western Basin Strategic Dredging and Disposal Project mention noise, there is no depth.

Section 33 © states that the Ecosystem Research Monitoring Program must monitor the effects of project-related activities including noise and, where relevant, associated pressure impacts. Monitoring noise once or twice a year cannot be described as monitoring.   Regular surveys and counts need to be carried out; legal limits need to be put on received levels and best-class mitigation strategies need to be put in place.

There’s no assessment which takes into account the cumulative or long term impacts.

Neither state nor federal legislation exists which address the levels of noise in the marine environment. Limited provisions do not allow any legal challenges to compel the relevant Minister to set proper limits to noise exposure

Acoustic signals can travel long distances depending on the state of tides, wind, seabed and other parameters.

The impacts of underwater noise include organ and/or physiological damage which may lead to death, a permanent shift in hearing sensitivity, a temporary effect on hearing, behavioral responses which may bring about changes in migration routes or long term avoidance of areas.

Pulses of intense underwater sound are known to adversely impact many species of fish. Early stages of egg development and larval fish are particularly vulnerable.     Cetaceans are sensitive to acoustic trauma with many instances of mortality caused by sonar, seismic operations and other sources.

In its haste to transform Australia into a gigantic quarry, the  Labor and Coalition governments have displayed a rash and inexplicable rush to plunder the continent’s resources with no thought for the precautionary principle or the value of Australia’s precious marine environment.

Nor do the Greens get off lightly as the party has consistently ignored the perils of underwater noise in the marine environment.

Posted in Politics.

Sue Arnold