Photo credit: ArtHouse Studio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Daily Beast reports that marine safaris are so loud underwater that they might soon be on land. Actually, in countries from Scotland to South Africa to New Zealand, a variety of local groups have already developed trails or bike paths where those looking for whales, orcas, dolphins, and other marine life can view them from land rather from the water.

The problem is that sound travels better through mediums denser than through air, and water is much denser than air. The sound of marine engines, propellers, and the hull moving through the water is very loud compared to the ocean’s relative natural quiet. Sound is used by marine mammals to communicate with each other, and also to find prey. Noise adversely affects not only marine mammals, though, but all marine life, including jellyfish.

I’ve taken my share of whale watching trips over the years, especially when my children were young, so I know how wonderful it is to get close to these magnificent animals. But now that I know how bad noise is for them, I’m less likely to sign up for one of these trips.

The one thing I didn’t see mentioned by The Daily Beast is whether marine engines can be made quieter, or whether operators of whale watching and other ocean wildlife trips–or perhaps all boats operating in coastal waters–can be required to use quieter engines. That sounds like a good idea to me.