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Boat noise stops fish finding home

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Posted July 1, 2013
Fish normally use the acoustic cues from fish and invertebrate reef residents to find suitable habitat. Credit: Sophie Holles

Fish normally use the acoustic cues from fish and invertebrate reef residents to find suitable habitat. Credit: Sophie Holles

Boat noise disrupts orientation behaviour in larval coral reef fish, according to new research from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Liège. Reef fish are normally attracted by reef sound but the study, conducted in French Polynesia, found that fish are more likely to swim away from recordings of reefs when boat noise is added.

Sophie Holles, a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol and one of the study’s authors, said: “Natural underwater sound is used by many animals to find suitable habitat, and traffic noise is one of the most widespread pollutants. If settlement is disrupted by boat traffic, the resilience of habitats like reefs could be affected.”

Sound travels better underwater than in air and reefs are naturally noisy places: fish and invertebrates produce feeding and territorial sounds while wind, waves and currents create other background noise. Boats can be found around all coastal environments where people live and the noise they make spreads far and wide.

Co-author, Dr Steve Simpson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, said: “Boat noise may scare fish, affecting their ecology. Since one in five people in the world rely on fish as their major source of protein, regulating traffic noise in important fisheries areas could help marine communities and the people that depend on them.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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