Not only are lobsters at risk from seismic testing, a new study has shown noise pollution is also causing them to go deaf.
The study, from the Tasmanian Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Curtin University, found evidence to suggest low-frequency underwater noises were damaging to lobsters.
Similar to the causes of deafness associated with tinnitus in humans, noises occurring in a lobster’s habitat can cause damage to its crustaceous navigational organ.
The lead author of the study, Dr Ryan Day said, “the lobsters from a noisy area that we studied suffered damage to their statocyst, an organ comparable to the human ear, which helps to control their position in the water, movement and righting reflex”.
While Dr Day said the study did not indicate the specific sources responsible for the damage, it was undertaken on lobsters taken from the mouth of the Derwent River, a site which experiences heavy water traffic as well as sounds from water and sewage pumping.
Previous research into the impact of the high-intensity sound of seismic testing on lobsters, scallops and zooplankton resulted in similar findings.
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Dr Day was surprised by the similarities between the damage caused by high and lower-frequency sounds.
“Unlike the sharp, high-intensity signals generated by seismic air guns, shipping and other industrial noises tend to be continuous and lower frequency, potentially resulting in chronic exposure for marine organisms across the ocean.”
“We didn’t expect to find that other sounds from shipping and a nearby water pumping station could inflict similar levels of damage on spiny lobsters.”
The previous studies into the impact of seismic testing prompted discussion of protests by scallop fishermen and brought about a senate inquiry, which is currently in process.
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