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Noise is polluting our waters

23 September 2020

River with small waterfall

Plastic isn’t the only pollutant impacting our lakes, rivers and oceans, as new research reveals the detrimental impacts of noise pollution on aquatic life.

Our world is becoming noisier and the impact of noise pollution isn’t just limited to humans but is also affecting aquatic life. Research at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences has, for the first time, uncovered vital information about how noise exposure could be harming fish.

More species of fish are threatened by extinction than any other vertebrate group. Research into sustaining their habitats and wellbeing is vital for conservation efforts.

Numair Masud, Research Postgraduate at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “It’s often thought that the underwater world is silent, however this myth is slowly being dispelled. Noise pollution is now being recorded in every habitat and we are beginning to appreciate the extent of its influence on animal welfare.”

The new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, explores how noise levels that are found in aquaculture facilities and natural habitats impact fish disease susceptibility and mortality rates.

“So far, it was known that fish exposed to noise have displayed abnormal behaviours, increased stress responses and even mortality. In this new research, we show for the first time how fish that are exposed to acute noise demonstrate significantly increased disease susceptibility compared to fish experiencing only background noise.

“We also found that fish that were exposed to chronic noise, strikingly, showed the lowest impact from pathogen. These fish, however, were prone to much higher mortality rates compared to fish exposed to no noise and even acute noise - suggesting a fatal trade-off.

“Now that human-generated noise is being recorded in all aquatic habitats, it is important we understand how this will influence fish welfare. With pathogen infections being abundant in human and natural habitats, understanding how they respond to noise pollution can help with disease mitigation strategies for our food industries that continue to face massive losses to infectious diseases, as well as help with the fish extinction crisis,” added Numair Masud.

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