Concerns about sea critters grow as ocean noise levels increase

As the world’s shipping traffic more than sextupled between 1948 and 1998, scientists say the oceans’ noise levels have increased by some 15 decibels — and as the impact of decibels is calculated exponentially, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers worry about the possible threat to many marine organisms that depend on their sense of hearing to survive. Scientists have speculated for years about the relationship between marine mammal beachings — such as the recent dolphin strandings on Florida’s Key West — and military sonar blasts. Some researchers believe the “acoustic smog” may also affect the animals’ ability to feed, breed, communicate with each other, and navigate the waters. Joel Reynolds, Marine Mammal Program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues for regulating ocean noise: “We have to treat it like any other form of pollution.”