Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2006 - page 5

Activists want to curb ocean noise pollution

 Fish, sea mammals ‘going deaf’ and dying in once-silent depths

By Steven Edwards

UNITED NATIONS - Environmentalists demand international action against man-made sounds in the oceans, saying fish and sea mammals are going deaf and dying because of noise pollution in the formerly silent depths. Ship traffic, military sonar and seismic air guns used in oil and gas exploration are creating a cacophony that is drowning out the natural sounds of marine life, the activists told a United Nations conference last June on oceans and the law of the sea.  

They want ships fitted with quieter engines and other machinery, navies to invent more fish-sensitive sonars, and oil and gas companies to use their exploration guns only when they’re sure there are no schools of fish, whales or dolphins around. Some areas, they add, should be declared sea sanctuaries where all human activity is banned.

The demand for international regulations comes collectively from the North American Ocean Noise Coalition, the European Coalition for Silent Oceans and the South American Noise Coalition. Members of the groups announced their campaign at the UN on June 8, 2005.

“Deadly man-made sounds are invading the silent world, and are largely unregulated,”


said Marsha L. Green, an animal behaviour scientist who is also part of a U.S. federal advisory committee on acoustic impacts on marine mammals. “Some sounds are so loud and intense, they are injuring, deafening and killing marine life.” Citing her own research, she said whales will flee from a sound at 25 decibels, which is roughly the noise emitted by the engine of a small inflatable craft. But oil and gas air guns blast with a noise intensity of 240 dB. “Because we are talking about a logarithmic scale, that’s a trillion times louder,” she said.

Intense and sudden noise causes brain haemorrhaging and disorientation in marine life, the activist groups say. They argue reduced catch counts of 45 to 70 per cent in the aftermath of major noise activity show fish have either left the area or been killed.

The disorienting effect on whales, dolphins and squid, they add, comes from numerous examples of “stranding” on beaches immediately following known sonic activity. One of the most recent cases involved the beaching of 34 whales in North Carolina in January 2005, following U.S. navy sonar tests. Other beachings believed related to noise pollution have occurred over the past 30 years throughout the Caribbean and in Hawaii, the Canary Islands, Corsica and Greece. “Squid have been found with exploded ears, and exploded organs,” said Green.

- The Vancouver Sun

Australian Law Limits Noise

Under a new interpretation of Australia's Work-cover rules, members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, who play at the Sydney Opera House, can't be exposed to sound levels higher than 85 decibels, averaged over a working day. The first work of art to be produced under the new rules is Sleeping Beauty, ironically one of the loudest ballets.

To avoid any one musician being exposed to excessive sound, the orchestra is working with relay teams of extra musicians: four separate horn sections, four of clarinets, four of flutes, and so on.


In other words, the orchestra that begins a particular performance isn't necessarily the same one that will finish it.

Helping turn the occupational health reform into a coherent and beautiful production is Nicolette Fraillon, the Australian Ballet's music director and chief conductor for the past two years. The expected cost of complying with the work rules is A$100,000.

- American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada newspaper, submitted by B. King 

U.S. skier Rahlves tears up the slopes

Setiere, Italy – In a majestic mountain setting, high above the nation that gave the world La Scala, Caruso and Verdi, Daron Rahlves sat in a bus and turned up the volume on a Metallica CD. “Before I race, I crank up Metallica in the bus,” the American skier said. “It gets me fired up.” That heavy-metal interlude ignited Rahlves. The 32-year-old Californian turned in the day’s fastest time during the first of three training sessions for Sunday’s men’s downhill.

- The Philadelphia Inquirer / National Post

Silent solar sailor

The Planet Solar Association unveils a model of a solar-powered trimaran in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland. Once it’s completed full-size, association president Raphael Domjan plans to navigate it around the world, using only the sun’s energy to power the vessel’s silent, non-polluting propulsion system.

-Laurent Gillieron, Associated Press


Entire contents © 2006 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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