Researchers Find Right Whales Affected by Underwater Noise

Photo: NOAA/NEFSC Peter Duley

Researchers say increasing amounts of underwater noise, largely from shipping traffic, are enveloping rare right whales in “acoustic smog” that makes it harder for them to communicate.

The endangered North Atlantic right whale relies far more on sound than sight, using distinctive noises to maintain contact.

A paper by federal scientists and Cornell University researchers published Wednesday estimates that in the last 50 years, the area where the whales can effectively communicate in Stellwagen Bank and surrounding waters off Massachusetts has fallen by two-thirds because of the noise.

The researchers say the racket is cutting down on the animals’ ability to gather and share vital information that helps them find food, avoid predators, reproduce and protect their young.

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