Technology requirements to investigate the effects of sound on marine wildlife

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2012

International Journal of the Society for Underwater Technology

There is little information about the effects of sound on marine life. In spite of this high uncertainty, several new legal limits to sound levels in the marine environment are being introduced. The present paper summarises the conclusions drawn at a workshop that took a prospective view of the technological developments necessary in order to make significant progress with reducing these uncertainties. These developments would mainly aim to further the understanding of how sound may affect some of the most vulnerable marine species. The most important methods available to examine the effects of sound will involve the development of instruments that measure the received levels of sound at the animal and its behavioural response. The availability of power to operate instruments used in remote sensing is the main factor that limits most aspects of technology capability. Alternatives need to be developed to using sparse data (from a few instruments that are attached to animals or that are widely spaced), and a coordinated approach is required between commercial suppliers and academics to overcome the current constraints, foster innovation and turn new approaches into operational tools. There is also a need to improve the technology used to attach instruments to animals, particularly in the case of small cetaceans. Improved bandwidth for data communication, recovery or retrieval is likely to develop alongside other innovations as a result of improvements in large-scale infrastructure such as satellite systems. There is scope for innovation of sensors to improve the ability to measure behavioural/physiological response variables such as heart and/or respiration rate.

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