A study published in the most recent issue of the journal Integrative Zoology reports that human-generated sound has detrimental effects on fish.
The review by Arthur Popper and Mardi Hastings reports that fish suffer from effects ranging from loss of hearing, increased stress levels and even death due to anthropogenic noises.
The sources of man-made sounds are varied, and include boats and ships, seismic exploration devices, construction activities, and active sonars.
The authors write: The range of potential effects from intense sound sources, such as pile driving and seismic air guns, includes immediate death.
Alternatively, effects could include tissue damage that might or might not directly result in death but that might make the fish less fit until healing takes place, resulting in lower chances of survival.
There is also the potential for temporary hearing loss due to exposure to intense sound sources, and this too could lower fitness until hearing recovers.
Behavioral changes might also occur, resulting in animals leaving feeding or reproduction grounds.
The authors continue: t is possible that less intense but longer lasting sounds, such as those produced by continuous boating, cause a general increase in background noise in some locations.
Although it is not likely that such sounds will kill per se, there are concerns that such sounds will result in masking of biologically important sounds, cause some hearing loss, and/or have an impact on stress levels and on the immune system.
For more information, see the paper: Popper, AN and MC Hastings (2009) The effects of human-generated sound on fish. Integrative Zoology 4, pp. 43"52.