How the COVID-19 pandemic could be helping sea life

A decrease in marine traffic because of the COVID-19 pandemic is creating quieter waters for sea life.

Researchers say this decline in ocean noise can allow marine life to interact with one another and potentially reduce their stress levels. 

Andrew Trites, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Marine Mammal Research Unit said less noise pollution presents scientists with the opportunity to learn more about sea life and more importantly allows whales and other acoustic animals to live comfortably. 

“They are very sensitive, particularly those who use acoustics to find food and to stay in touch with members,” he told CTV News. 

Both Canadian exports and imports have decreased drastically according to reports from Statistics Canada

Oceanographer David Barclay from Dalhousie University says the decline of sound pollution is roughly down by 50 per cent. 

“It’s been getting quieter at a faster rate in the last month. We are seeing a decrease in about four dB (decibels), which is about half, 50 per cent reduction,” Barclay told CTV News. 

Barclay found this decline using sound monitors off the west coast of Vancouver Island and in the Georgia Strait. His findings were first published in The Narwhal and are currently under academic review. 

Similar research was conducted after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. Researchers found that the drop in sea traffic resulted in a dramatic decline in stress hormones for the North Atlantic right whales. 

These animals are very sensitive to noise as they use low frequency sounds to communicate with one another. However, if their acoustics are hindered by other frequencies, high or low, they can have difficulties communicating and protecting themselves. 

Researchers, such as Valeria Vergara, hope these studies will open up new ways to reduce noise pollution and aid the many endangered animals underwater. 

Vergara specializes in Canada's endangered Saint Lawrence Belugas, which are down to only 800 in the wild. She tells CTV News that noise is one of the main factors that prevents these whales from recovering. 

“One of the reasons for their decline or failure to recover is noise,” Vergara said. 

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