Increase in Shipping Brings Unknown Consequences for Dolphins

Written by on December 12, 2013 in Marine Life, Whales & Dolphins

Offshore wind farms on the northeast coast of Scotland are projected to increase in the next few years. This is definitely good news, but we don’t yet know the impact that the associated increase in shipping will have on local marine life.

Ship anchored in Moray Firth.

Ship anchored in Moray Firth. Photo credit: Duncan Brown (Cradlehall) via photopin cc.

A new system developed by scientists at the University of Bath and University of Aberdeen will monitor the impact of underwater noise on the population of bottlenose dolphins in Scotland’s Moray Firth.

By using underwater recording equipment and technology to track shipping movements, scientist will be able to track and monitor current underwater noise levels in order to assess future noise increases. They will also be able to record any changes in dolphin behavior associated with changes in underwater noise levels.

Scientists know that underwater noise levels have been steadily increasing over the last five decades, primarily due to an increase in shipping. However, there is a lack of reliable baseline data that they can use to assess the impact that this increase has had on marine life.

“Globally, noise from shipping is widespread and increasing as trade becomes ever more globalized,” explains lead author Nathan Merchant in a news release. “Over the last decades, the number of large vessels and their size and power has risen dramatically…In places where ships cross habitats or migration routes for marine animals, the cumulative effect of many noisy ships can interfere with important activities such as foraging, which may affect the long-term health of individuals…”

The important question is: will these effects lead to changes in population levels? Long-term studies like this one will help researchers answer that question.

Dolphins in Moray Firth.

Dolphins in Moray Firth. Photo credit: HighlandBlade via photopin cc.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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