Broadband ship noise and its potential impacts on Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins: Implications for conservation and management
Ship noise pollution has raised considerable concerns among regulatory agencies and cetacean researchers worldwide. There is an urgent need to quantify ship noise in coastal areas and assess its potential biological impacts. In this study, underwater broadband noise from commercial ships in a critical habitat of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins was recorded and analyzed. Data analysis indicated that the ship noise caused by the investigated commercial ships with an average length of 134 ± 81 m, traveling at 18.8 ± 2.5 km/h [mean ± standard deviation (SD), n = 21] comprises mid-to-high components with frequencies approaching and exceeding 100 kHz, and the ship noise could be sensed auditorily by Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins within most of their sensitive frequency range. The contributions of ship noise to ambient noise were highest in two third-octave bands with center frequencies of 8 and 50 kHz, which are within the sensitive hearing range of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and overlap the frequency of sounds that are biologically significant to the dolphins. It is estimated that ship noise in these third-octave bands can be auditorily sensed by and potentially affect the dolphins within 2290 ± 1172 m and 848 ± 358 m (mean ± SD, n = 21), respectively.