Mapping widespread and increasing underwater noise pollution from acoustic deterrent devices
Acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) are used in attempts to mitigate pinniped depredation on aquaculture sites through the emission of loud and pervasive noise. This study quantified spatio-temporal changes in underwater ADD noise detections along western Scotland over 11 years. Acoustic point data (‘listening events’) collected during cetacean line-transect surveys were used to map ADD presence between 2006 and 2016. A total of 19,601 listening events occurred along the Scottish west coast, and ADD presence was recorded during 1371 listening events. Results indicated a steady increase in ADD detections from 2006 (0.05%) to 2016 (6.8%), with the highest number of detections in 2013 (12.6%), as well as substantial geographic expansion. This study demonstrates that ADDs are a significant and chronic source of underwater noise on the Scottish west coast with potential adverse impacts on target (pinniped) and non-target (e.g. cetaceans) species, which requires further study and improved monitoring and regulatory strategies.