Vessel noise reductions are structural or operational changes to fishing vessels which decrease their overall sound production. Reducing vessel noise, especially during activities that generate high-intensity noise such as hauling, could potentially decrease the likelihood of non-target wildlife detecting fishing activity. Marine mammals (particularly cetaceans and pinnipeds) are thought to associate vessel noise with feeding opportunities, causing them to approach the vessel looking for food which poses a higher risk of their interacting with fishing gear.
Field testing conducted in the summer foraging grounds of the Bay of Fundy, Canada, set out to investigate the responses of North Atlantic right whales to four sound stimuli: vessel noise, social sounds of cetaceans, an alert signal, and silence as a control. The whales reacted strongly to the alert signal by swimming at the surface but showed no response to vessel noise. This lack of responsiveness suggested that the whales had become accustomed to the sounds of vessels, however this was not directly investigated.
Despite whales seeming to home in on vessel noises, the effect of reducing vessel noise has not been sufficiently tested and requires further study to understand how much marine mammals use acoustic cues for locating vessels.
This page was last updated on 12.02.21.
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