The loud noise produced by deep-sea mining could pose a serious threat to whales and other sea creatures that use sound to communicate, scientists said.
In a new report from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace, researchers have warned that constant man-made noise could disrupt the unique frequencies that whales, dolphins and porpoises use to talk to each other and navigate the ocean.
The scientists said that sound from seabed mining would “overlap” these frequencies and confuse and distress marine mammals, causing them to change their behaviour.
They called for more research into the impact of mining on ocean life, noting that whales and dolphins are already under increased stress due to climate change and fishing activity.
Dr Kirsten Thompson, a lecturer in ecology at the University of Exeter, compared the noise to permanent roadworks outside a house.
“Imagine if your neighborhood was suddenly disrupted by construction work going on 24/7 – your life would change dramatically,” she said.
“Your mental health would be at risk, you might change your behavior to escape it. It’s not like whales or dolphins.”
Deep sea mining is a relatively new – and controversial – method of recovering minerals and deposits from the ocean floor.
Some scientists think the materials found on the sea floor could help create new greener technologies such as long-range electric cars, lighter rechargeable batteries, and wind turbines that can withstand extreme weather.
However, other researchers have warned that deep-sea mining could affect the oceans in ways we don’t expect.
Scientists are particularly concerned about the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) between Mexico and Hawaii, home to more than 25 cetacean species including dolphins and sperm whales, as 17 deep-sea mining exploratory contracts have already been awarded in the area this of the Pacific Ocean. Ocean.
“Deep-sea mining companies are determined to plunder the oceans, despite the fact that there is little research on the impact of this industry on whales, dolphins and other species,” said Louisa Casson, Greenpeace International campaigner.
“Deep-sea mining could damage the oceans in ways we don’t fully understand – and at the expense of species like blue whales that have been the focus of conservation efforts for decades.
“Governments cannot keep their promises to protect the oceans if they allow deep-sea mining to begin.”
Deep-sea mining companies have not yet received permission to start mining commercially, but they may be given the go-ahead later this year following a meeting of the International Seabed Authority, the body that regulates activity in international waters, in March. and in July.