When Whales Cannot Hear: Ocean Noise Doubling Every 10 Years

Published on Truthout, 4 June 2016.

A blue whale is able to communicate with another blue whale across the breadth of an entire ocean basin, and can hear storms more than 1,000 miles away.

“Whales are reliant upon their hearing to live,” Dr. Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist, author and lecturer who has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998 says in the documentary Sonic Sea.

Earle, who has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater, refers to the oceans as “the blue heart of the planet,” and has dedicated her life to researching and protecting them.

Part of this is due to the fact that the amount of sound humans are injecting into them is so intense and frequent that it is, at times, literally killing whales, dolphins and other sea life.

I attended a screening of Sonic Sea in Port Townsend, Washington, where Michael Jasny, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Marine Mammal Protection, and Dr. Kenneth Balcomb, the executive director and senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research were present.

The film, which aired last week on the Discovery Channel, states that, “We are acoustically bleaching our oceans,” and underscores several deeply disturbing facts about the ever-increasing level of noise in the sea, including that:

Sounds can travel 17,000 kilometers underwater and still be audible
Whale calls are literally being drowned out by ship noise
There are 60,000 commercial ships in the oceans at any given moment.
According to the US Navy, noise levels in the oceans are doubling every 10 years, and have been doing so for decades.

Read the full story on Truthout.

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