The power of modern research vessels using diesel engines means significant levels of noise may be radiated underwater. At low frequencies a surveying vessel must not cause fish avoidance behaviour when it is using trawl or acoustic assessment methods. All the main mechanisms that form the essential propulsion system are described and discussed in terms of underwater radiated noise. Diesel engines, generators and propulsion motors contribute significantly to the low frequency spectrum and an illustration is given of underwater noise when an unsuitable propulsion system is used. Avoidance behaviour by a herring school is shown due to a noisy vessel, by contrast there is an example of no reaction of herring to a noise-reduced vessel. Propellers are major sources of both low and high frequency noise. The latter should not reduce echo sounder detection range, nor contaminate echo integrator recordings. Underwater noise levels from four vessels with different machinery and propulsion characteristics are seen in relation to ambient noise levels at 18 kHz. Fish detection is examined in relation to sea background noise and vessel self-noise. Calculated detection ranges for fish target strength classes from –30 to –60 dB at 38 kHz are shown for six vessels travelling at 11 knots, based on self-noise measurements. Echo sounder noise levels from several vessels at 120 and 200 kHz are tabulated. Beyond 100 kHz the effect of vessel-radiated noise is usually insignificant; levels up to that frequency are proposed in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Cooperative Research Report No. 209 of 1995.
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