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Whales can't communicate because of all the noise we're making, say researchers


A new study shows that whale communication is impaired by shipping lane traffic noise.


David McNew

Whales are having a hard time communicating these days due to all the noise we make.

A new study shows that North Atlantic Right whales had their ability to communicate with each other impaired by two thirds due to background noise in the ocean caused by ships.

The critically endangered whales are at risk from increasing shipping lane traffic, say researchers.

"Large whales, such as Right whales, rely on their ability to hear far more than their ability to see," said Leila Hatch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), according to USA Today.

"Chronic noise is likely reducing their opportunities to gather and share vital information that helps them find food and mates, navigate, avoid predators and take care of their young."

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The Cornell University researchers looked particularly in the water off the coast of Massachusetts, where they say that whales are being heavily affected by ocean traffic, reported Sci-Tech.

Out of the 89 whales involved in the study, USA today said that 12 percent of the whales experienced 120-decibel sounds for ten-minute periods in a day.

Hispanic business reported that Right whales were nearly hunted to extinction in the 18th century with only 350 to 550 remaining in the wild.

The study authors hope that the research will spur a plan to reduce shipping noise off the coast and more research into the effects of noise on sea life.

“We are starting to quantify the implication of chronic, human-created ocean noise for marine animals,” said Holly Bamford, deputy assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service, in a statement.

“Now, we need to ask how we can adapt our management tools to better address these problems.”

The study was published in the journal Conservation Biology.