Scientists say ships should stick to 11.5mph – otherwise the noise stops marine animals reproducing properly.

  • Lowering noise levels would reduce the impact of ‘acoustic masking’
  • Scientists looked at the potential relief for marine animals such as arctic cod 
  • They looked at reducing the speed of container and cruise ships by 10 knots 
  • Instead of travelling at 25 knots they said they should travel at 15 knots

There should be a speed limit in the Arctic Ocean, according to scientists who say noise from ships is stopping animals from reproducing properly.  

Scientists looked at the effects of reducing the speed of container and cruise ships by 10 knots.

Instead of travelling at 25 knots (equivalent to about 17 mph) scientists said travelling at 15 knots (equivalent to about 11.5 mph) makes ‘substantial’ differences to animals such as arctic cod and beluga wales.

The western Canadian Arctic’s natural underwater soundscape has been shielded from the din of commercial shipping.

This is because the sea ice covers it making it almost inaccessible to shipping vessels.

However, with large amounts of ice shrinking in the Arctic Ocean, a growing number of ships are gaining access to the area.

This trend is expected to accelerate.

One concern with vessel transits is how noise pollution can detrimentally affect marine animals.

Researchers believe it could have a particularly bad impact on Arctic cod which are of critical importance in the arctic food web.

‘Noise from shipping traffic can lead to acoustic masking, reducing the ability of cod and other marine animals to detect and use sound for communication, foraging, avoiding predators, reproduction, and navigation,’ said Matt Pine, a research fellow at the University of Victoria and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS Canada).

His research team found that the negative impact of noise from shipping vessels can be mitigated by reducing the ship’s speed. 

Researchers looked at the effect of ship noise on arctic cod, two types of whales (belugas and bowheads) and two types of seals (bearded and ringed).

Researchers looked at the effect of ship noise on arctic cod (stock image), two types of whales (belugas and bowheads) and two types of seals (bearded and ringed)

They produced computer simulations in which container and cruise ships passed through the western Canadian Arctic via the Northwest Passage.

They explored the effect each type of ship had on the volume of the ocean surrounding the specific fish, seal and whale.

‘Our modelling study shows that reduction in acoustic masking effects can be substantial,’ Dr Pine said.

However, he cautioned, the findings are not so clear-cut.

‘Acoustic masking effects are quite dynamic, and slowing down a vessel doesn’t necessarily equal the same benefits for all animals,’ he said.

For example, sometimes smaller masking effects were seen in certain weather conditions.

For the fish, however, weather conditions did not make a difference in the masking effects….


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Source: (Phoebe Weston)


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Could the Arctic Ocean have a speed limit?
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