U.N. unit plans 10-year study of noise effects in ocean

With noisy human activity on the world’s oceans possibly disrupting the well-being of marine creatures, perhaps reducing their ability to find food, seek out mates or avoid predators, the United Nations is hosting a meeting to launch a decade-long investigation into the problem.

“Many marine species rely mainly on sound as a source of environmental information, in much the same way as human beings rely on their eyesight,” the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Wednesday of the meeting, to be held at its Paris headquarters from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.

“Although very little research exists to prove any links, there is a growing suspicion that increasing noise levels, and some sounds in particular, are altering the behavior of marine animals and perhaps even reducing their capacity to perform normal life functions such as finding food, seeking out mates or avoiding predators.

“Evidence suggests, for example, that several whale species have raised the volume of the squeaks, clicks and moans by which they communicate with each other.”

In light of the growing concern, fueled by the increasing industrialization of the oceans, leading marine scientists and representatives from the private sector and military establishments will use the meeting to plan the decade-long International Quiet Ocean Experiment aimed at filling the considerable knowledge gaps so that management of ocean noise can be more informed and effective.

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