Marine noise monitoring and impacts

Scientists are investigating the impact of marine noise pollution on a range of marine animals, including commercially important species such as red emperor (Lutjanus sebae).

Seismic surveys are a key activity during maritime oil exploration. During the surveys, sound is repeatedly produced underwater to create detailed pictures of below the sea floor, allowing explorers to accurately find oil and gas.

Seismic surveys and vessel operations create marine noise and can have negative impacts on wildlife. They can change an animal’s hearing structure or their physiology. The noise can also affect an animal’s  behaviour such as altering their feeding or breeding behaviours or perhaps their escape responses. Over the long-term (months to years), these impacts may accumulate, affecting the health of individuals and potentially the health of the population. 

As part of the North West Shoals to Shore program, AIMS is investigating the long and short-term impacts of marine noise from the petroleum industry on plankton, pearl oysters and fish.

The studies are also measuring the quality and amount of noise pollution produced by the seismic surveys and vessel activity to produce real-world information about the impacts.

Impacts on plankton

Plankton are the small plants and animals that float through the water,  forming the base of most ocean food webs. This part of the study will examine the impact of seismic surveys on plankton.

Impacts on fish communities

This study is examining the impacts of marine noise on fish, paying particular attention to commercially important species such as red emperor (Lutjanus sebae). We are investigating how fish behaviour might change as a result of the seismic surveys. Specifically, we are looking at how the noise influences their behaviour in feeding grounds and if the noise makes them harder to catch.

Impacts on pearl oysters

Pearl oysters (Pinctada maxima) are the basis of the valuable pearling industry in Western Australia. This part of the research is studying the influence of seismic surveys on the species, including whether it impacts their growth and physiology.