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Three orcas at surface © Christopher Swann/WDC

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Minke whale calls drowned out by ocean noise

Antarctic minke whale - Fabian Ritter

New research in Australia suggests noise pollution is affecting how minke whales communicate

We have known for some time that increasing ocean noise levels are affecting the behaviour of whales, dolphins and other marine creatures.

Orcas and humpbacks, for example, have modified their behaviour to accommodate it. But scientists in Australia have discovered that minke whales respond differently.

They analysed more than 42,000 minke whale calls over a 1200 sq km swathe of ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai and discovered that, as background noise intensified, the whales began to lose their ability to communicate over long distances.

While some other species tend to compensate fully for increasing noise, minke whales increase the level of their calls only marginally in the presence of loud noise.

In recent decades, ambient noise levels in the ocean – primarily caused by commercial shipping – have been shown to increase by roughly three decibels per decade.

This is significant, and we have a responsibility to make sure that what we do as human beings doesn’t affect the wellbeing of the whales, dolphins and porpoises who live in the ocean.

More on our work to Create Healthy Seas here

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