Underwater Noise and Marine Life

Publication and Source

The New York Times online edition published the article "A Rising Tide of Noise is Now Easy to See" by William J Broad in the Science section December 10, 2012. A Version of the article is also available in the printed New York edition from December 11, 2012 on page D1 under the headline: A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See. The complete study can be viewed online at the NOAA science and technology website for Underwater Noise and Marine Life.

Short Description

The New York Times article examines the two-phase study led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and how the results have been used by other organizations and institutions as a visually scientific basis to reform policy and management practices of underwater noise both domestically and in international waters. The maps created with the first phase of the study shows yearly averages of noise in decibels. The decibel level is respresented on a rainbow scale ranging from the loud end of 115 decibels  shown in red (equivalent to a rock concert) to the quiet end of 40 decibels shown in blue (equivalent to a whispered conversation in a quiet library). The article goes on to discuss ways in which the noise disturbance findings are compelling manufactuerers of ocean-going vessels to design quieter engines and implement vibration reducing technology not only to eventually allow for voluntarily quieter ships, but to allow oceanographers quieter vessels which allows better scientific research.


  • Underwater Noise Decreases Whale Communication In Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary (August 25, 2012) published by NOAA. Undersea noise is found to be critically damaging to whales and other large sea mamals which rely on accute hearing and sharing sounds for communication, navigation, feeding, and evading predators. This article summarizes a case study conducted by scientists from Stallwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and Marine Acoustics Incorporated researching sounds from endangered right whales along the east coast of the United States and levels of interfering man-made noise.
  • Ship Noise Makes Crabs Get Crabby (February 26, 2013) published in Science Daily by University of Bristol. A study finds that ship noises, the most common man-made audio disturbance, are adversely affecting crabs of all sizes. Crabs and other crustaceans show heightened physiological signs of stress, and results in more time needed for crabs to forage. The lasting impact of noise on crustaceans carries several implications for the size and quality of both wild-caught and fishery-raised crabs and lobsters for human consumption.
  • Natural Sounds being explored by the National Park Service have several studies exploring the overall increase of ambient noise in natural and built spaces and the lasting effects on humans and wildlife. While most of the research is being done in terrestrial settings, the policy development and management resources are applicable to coastal and marine environments as well.

Related Partners

NOAA is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. It plays several distinct roles within the Department of Commerce.
Most people know that the National Park Service cares for national parks, a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites across the nation. The treasures in this system -- the first of its kind in the world -- have been set aside by the American people to preserve, protect, and share, the legacies of this land.

Suggested Citation

Broad, W. (2012, December 10). A rising tide of noise is now easy to see. The New  York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/science/project-seeks-to-map-and-reduc....