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Shipping Vessel Noise May Affect Behavior, Availability of Arctic Cod

Factually, ice cover being seen in the Arctic acted as a natural barrier to shipping in the region. But due to the continuously changing climate, it warms the oceans that resulted in a reduced sea ice cover. Ice coverage in the Arctic was declined by approximately 49% from the baseline average though vessel activity is still increasing. Such growth in traffic is the main reason behind the increase in marine noise which may have a possible effect on the behavior and availability of key species.

A new study being published this month concluded that the underwater noise from anchored and moving vessels strongly displaces Arctic cod to areas with lesser noise and also alters their natural behaviors. To give you a brief background, Arctic cod plays a significant role in Arctic marine ecosystems. Any changes or shifts in terms of distribution will surely affect the availability of foods for seabirds and even marine mammals like beluga whales and ringed seals. If worse comes to worst, it could also affect the indigenous community in the Arctic that are dependent on the marine mammals for subsistence hunting.

In the previous studies, researchers make use of the telemetry data to measure the corresponding effects of noise coming from stationary and moving ships around the Arctic cod specifically in Nunavut, Canada. It intensifies those cod behaviors in terms of searching, feeding, and traveling. Later on, researchers noted that fish responded to increased noise by means of moving farther from the ships and aggregating in areas with much deeper water. Also, the fish changed their swimming behaviors, they spend more time traveling instead of searching for food. If you were to analyze this, cod are believed to perceive vessel noise and this can strongly be treated as a threat.

We all know that ships tend to operate near human communities. If there’s a continuous increase in vessel traffic, cod and other fish species will truly move farther away from these areas. In return, those marine mammals need to travel a greater distance to forage for critical prey species. Also, it may result in fewer marine mammals close to the Inuit communities.

Vessel noise strongly affects underwater creatures. It’s harder for the fish to hear their predators and communicate with each other plus it can alter how they use to live in their habitat. Vessel traffic is continuously increasing especially along the Northwest Passage since it’s the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia.

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