As Ships Move North With Climate Change, Their Noise Scares Arctic Cod Away

As Ships Move North With Climate Change, Their Noise Scares Arctic Cod Away A cruise ship leaves Resolute Bay, Nunavut, in the summer of 2014. (Silviya V. Ivanova), Author provided

When people who haven’t been to the Arctic think of this remote and cold region, they may picture animals, such as polar bears, narwhal or ringed seals, and the people who live there. Rarely does this vision include modern cargo ships and ocean liners.

Yet these large vessels are increasing their activity in the Arctic Ocean as declining sea ice opens previously inaccessible Arctic regions to shipping. This surge in vessel traffic is also causing an increase in underwater noise, which research has shown can affect marine mammals and fish by interfering with communications, behaviour and movement.

Our new study shows that Arctic cod, a key fish in this ecosystem, are also sensitive to ship noise. Such sensitivity may affect their well-being and the predators that feed on them.

Noise disruptions

Most fish and marine mammals can hear sound, which they use to communicate, forage, detect approaching predators and locate prey. Noise in the environment can impede all of these functions, and this can have negative short- or long-term implications for the health of aquatic organisms.

As Ships Move North With Climate Change, Their Noise Scares Arctic Cod Away Arctic cod are slender fish that range further north than any other fish. (Erling Svensen/Ocean Photo), CC BY

For example, noise-induced temporary hearing loss and an increase in stress hormones have been observed in fish. The former can lead to death due to inability to hear approaching predators. Masked communication can also lead to loss of critical mating opportunities.

Some Arctic communities have raised concerns about the effect increasing ship traffic might have on aquatic animals, particularly marine mammals that are an important source of food and livelihood. They also worried that the noise might be pushing the Arctic cod into new areas, followed by marine mammals.

We carried out a study in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to measure how ship noise might be changing the behaviour of Arctic cod, an abundant small fish that is a key prey for seals, whales and seabirds.

Missed meals

We used acoustic telemetry to track 77 individual Arctic cod. We found they moved to areas with less noise when cargo ships and cruise ships were present in the bay, whether they were anchored or moving.

Cod form schools, so we assumed that the fish we were tracking represented the population living in Resolute Bay. When ship activity was low (a single ship), the cod moved 250-350 metres away.

We would expect the displacement to be larger with more ship activity. In recent years, two ships are commonly seen in the bay at once. There has also been a sharp increase in the traffic through the Parry Channel — the main passage running through Lancaster Sound — over the past decade.

Any shift, whether short- or long-term, in the distribution of an animal’s population has implications for that species and for the predators that rely on them. As the primary food source of seabirds and marine mammals, a shift in Arctic cod distribution has consequences for the marine food webs, as well as for the Indigenous communities that depend on them.

As Ships Move North With Climate Change, Their Noise Scares Arctic Cod Away Marine mammals are an important source of food for many Arctic Indigenous communities. (Judith Slein/Flickr), CC BY-NC-SA

Summer is a short but critical period in the Arctic. Fish, birds and marine mammals feed prolifically in open waters when prey is more abundant. The warmer temperatures also allow animals to grow faster and accumulate more body fat.

We found Arctic cod changed their swimming behaviour when ships were present, spending less time searching for and consuming food, and more time travelling, which is associated with higher speeds and thus, more energy use.

But if ship traffic occurs in an important feeding area for Arctic cod, the fish may find themselves missing meals and using more energy for travel. This could have significant negative effects. For example, it may lead to lower body weight or reduced winter survival due to lower fat reserves.

Under pressures

Ship traffic in Arctic Canada has already doubled over the past 20 years, and the number of days ships spend in the Arctic has nearly quadrupled since 2000. This trend is also seen elsewhere in the Arctic and is projected to continue. The Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, has long been eyed for shipping to Asia from North America and Europe. As vessel traffic grows, underwater noise will also continue to increase.

As Ships Move North With Climate Change, Their Noise Scares Arctic Cod Away Map of the Arctic region showing the Northeast Passage the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage and bathymetry. (Arctic Council)

Underwater ship noise is a new disturbance to Arctic marine animals. Although fish from temperate regions have shown the ability to adapt to noise, Arctic organisms may not have enough time to adjust.

The effects of climate change are greatest at the poles and the organisms there already face many stressors. The Arctic ecosystem also has lower species diversity compared with temperate and tropical climates, reducing its resilience to stress.

Although Canada, Europe and the United States broadly support environmental protection, human health and sustainable management of anthropogenic disturbances, such as ship traffic and noise, we need to develop and implement effective conservation and management plans.

We need Indigenous people to be involved in decision-making processes, marine protected areas that protect important foraging and breeding grounds, strict rules on ship speed and their distance from sensitive regions, as well as technologies that lower vessel noise, such as modified propellers and regular cleanings.

The precautionary principle in environmental decision-making suggests we should take preventive action in the face of uncertainty. For the Arctic, uncertainty is associated to the response of biology in the oceans and on land and its magnitude. We believe that preventive timely action is of the essence.The Conversation

About The Author

Silviya V. Ivanova, PhD Candidate, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), University of Windsor and Aaron Thomas Fisk, Professor, School of the Environment, University of Windsor

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.