Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Underwater noise emissions pose threat to Indian Marine species: Study


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNE

Mains level: Noise Pollution


Central idea: The rising man-made (anthropogenic) underwater noise emissions (UNE) from ships in the Indian waters are posing a threat to the life of marine mammals like Bottlenose Dolphin, Manatees, Pilot Whale, Seal, and Sperm Whale.

What is Underwater Noise Emissions (UNE)?

  • Underwater noise emissions (UNE) refer to sounds that are produced underwater as a result of various human activities such as shipping, oil and gas exploration, military sonar, and construction.
  • UNE can have a significant impact on marine life, as many marine animals rely on sound for communication, navigation, and foraging.
  • Excessive underwater noise can interfere with these activities, and can even cause physical harm to marine animals in some cases.
  • As a result, there is growing concerned about the potential impact of UNE on marine ecosystems, and efforts are being made to better understand and mitigate these impacts.

UNE and marine life

  • Impacts behavioural aspects: The main form of energy for multiple behavioural activities of marine mammals, which include mating, communal interaction, feeding, cluster cohesion and foraging, is based on sound.
  • Threats posed by UNE: The sound that radiates from ships on a long-term basis affects them and results in internal injuries, loss of hearing ability, change in behavioural responses, masking, and stress.

Key findings about Indian waters

  • Continuous shipping movement is identified to be a major contributor to the increase in the global ocean noise level.
  • The UNE or underwater sound pressure levels in the Indian waters are 102-115 decibels, relative to one microPascal (dB re 1µ Pa).
  • The East Coast level is slightly higher than that of the West, where there is an increase by a significant value of about 20 dB re 1µPa.
  • “The frequencies of ships’ underwater self-noise and machinery vibration levels are overlapping the marine species’ communication frequencies in the low-frequency range of less than 500 Hz.
  • This is called masking, which could have led to a change in the migration route of the marine species to the shallow regions and also making it difficult for them to go back to the deeper water.


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