Film explores impacts of a noisy ocean

  • Sonar, air gun charges for oil and gas exploration, and ship traffic in the ocean can interfere with marine mammal communication, cause physiological problems and drive animals to strand on beaches.
  • A new film, “Sonic Sea,” traces the risks of an increasingly noisy ocean to whales, dolphins and porpoises.
  • The film is a finalist for the Best Science in Nature prize at the 2017 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson, Wyoming.
  • The winners will be announced Sept. 28.

Animals in the world’s oceans have faced an ever-increasing cacophony in recent decades. They’re inundated with sonar intended to keep countries safe, air gun charges that help energy companies find new sources of oil and gas, and the sounds of the 60,000 commercial ships that ply the seas at any given time.

A new film called “Sonic Sea” by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Imaginary Forces catalogs the growing risks that noise poses to whales, dolphins, and porpoises and what scientists and conservationists are doing about it. It’s up for the Best Science in Nature prize at the 2017 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival beginning Sept. 24 in Jackson, Wyoming.

The film ‘Sonic Sea’ explores the impacts of sound in the ocean on whales, dolphins and porpoises. Photo courtesy of Imaginary Forces

Cetaceans, the group that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises, depend on sound to communicate, to hunt and to avoid predators.

“The problem is, in the ocean, we are injecting enormous amounts of noise, so much so that we are basically acoustically bleaching the ocean,” said bioacoustician Christopher Clark of Cornell University in the film. “All the singing voices of the planet are lost in that cloud of noise.”

The recent uptick in sounds in the ocean has also been linked to lesions on cetaceans’ organs and hemorrhaging around their brains. It’s also been connected to mass strandings, in which large animals beach themselves, often with fatal…

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