Fish More Likely to Become Prey When Boats are Close

Written by on February 8, 2016 in Fish, Marine Life

New research shows that fish are captured by predators far more often when boats are close.

Lemon damselfish on a reef. Photo credit: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Lemon damselfish on a reef. Photo credit: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers found that the noise from nearby boats increases stress levels in young coral reef fish and makes it harder for them to escape predators. The combination of stress and noise cuts their chance of survival in half.

“We found that when real boats were motoring near to young damselfish in open water, they became stressed and were six times less likely to startle to simulated predator attacks compared to fish tested without boats nearby,” Dr. Stephen Simpson, a senior lecturer in the University of Exeter’s Biosciences department, explained in a news release.

This study is the first to show that real-world noise can “have a direct consequence on fish survival.” The study authors hope that this will lead to better noise management efforts in coastal areas.

“If you go to the Great Barrier Reef, there is a lot of noise from motorboats in some places. But unlike many pollutants we can more easily control noise. We can choose when and where we make it, and with new technologies, we can make less noise. For example, we could create marine quiet zones or buffer zones, and avoid known sensitive areas or times of year when juveniles are abundant,” said Dr. Simpson.

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Copyright © 2016 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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