Seismic survey noise disrupted fish use of a temperate reef

Last modified: 
December 16, 2019 - 1:24pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2017
Date published: 04/2017
Authors: Avery Paxton, Christopher Taylor, Douglas Nowacek, Julian Dale, Elijah Cole, Christine Voss, Charles Peterson
Journal title: Marine Policy
Volume: 78
Pages: 68 - 73
ISSN: 0308597X

Marine seismic surveying discerns subsurface seafloor geology, indicative of, for example, petroleum deposits, by emitting high-intensity, low-frequency impulsive sounds. Impacts on fish are uncertain. Opportunistic monitoring of acoustic signatures from a seismic survey on the inner continental shelf of North Carolina, USA, revealed noise exceeding 170 dB re 1μ Pa peak on two temperate reefs federally designated as Essential Fish Habitat 0.7 and 6.5 km from the survey ship path. Videos recorded fish abundance and behavior on a nearby third reef 7.9 km from the seismic track. During seismic surveying, reef-fish abundance declined by 78% during evening hours when fish habitat use was highest on the previous three days without seismic noise. Despite absence of videos documenting fish returns after seismic surveying, the significant reduction in fish occupation of the reef represents disruption to daily pattern. This numerical response confirms that conservation concerns associated with seismic surveying are realistic.

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