Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I am Callum Roberts, Board Member of Seaweb and marine conservationist from the University of York in the UK, blogging from aboard the National Geographic Endeavor in the Galapagos. For the next four days, this ship will host a remarkable meeting of minds to try to find solutions to the ills of our seas.
Mission Blue, as it is called, is part of the fulfilment of the world famous oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s TED Prize wish: “I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! more! — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” Sylvia has convened a meeting of some of the best minds in ocean science and conservation to share ideas with some highly creative people from the worlds of the film, publishing, art, business and philanthropy. It is hoped that this coming together will stimulate new thinking on ocean conservation, and will help to further Sylvia’s wish of a planet seeded with hope spots, places that will reveal new ways in which we and ocean life can flourish together.
Today I had a fascinating conversation with Peter Tyack from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution about the effects of ocean noise on whales and dolphins. The oceans are no longer the ‘silent world’ that Jacques Cousteau dubbed them in his first book published in the 1950s (his son Jean Michel and granddaughter Celine are on board). Since then background noise from shipping has increased by three decibels per decade. The loudness of sounds measured on the decibel scale increases tenfold for every ten decibels. So today’s seas are around one hundred and eighty times noisier than those dived by Cousteau in the early 1950s.
Peter told me of dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, that react to approaching boats by whistling more to each other and forming tighter groups. Incredibly, they get disturbed by boats an average of once every six minutes during the day – truly urban animals. Whales get by in noisy places by shouting to each other above the din, and by changing the pitch of their calls so they are on different wavelengths to the noise produced by boats. Noisy oceans are just one way in which life has become harder for marine animals in the last century. Finding a solution to this one won’t be easy.
More from Mission Blue tomorrow.
Photo: Rod Mast, Marine Photobank
Posted by Callum Roberts at 12:25 PM