Photo credit: J.U.L.Ö

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

We have written many times about the importance of noise in oceans and lakes, and its importance becomes greater at greater depths, where light penetration is greatly reduced. Animals living at these great depths rely on sound rather than sight to find food, select mates, and avoid predators. Any increased ambient noise may interfere with these vital functions.

This article from the Pew Charitable Trusts discusses a report in Science about underwater noise generated by deep seabed mining. The research was funded by Pew via a grant to Oceans Initiative. The study simulated underwater noise produced by a mining operation in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which spans 1.7 million square miles between Hawaii and Mexico. This vast stretch of the seabed is covered with trillions of rocklike nodules containing nickel, manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, and other minerals.

Mining has yet to begin, but companies are vying for approval and an intergovernmental organization formed to regulate seabed mining, the International Seabed Authority, is trying to develop regulations that will protect ocean life. The study showed that if all 17 contractors trying to get approval for mining in this Zone were operating, 2.1 million square miles of ocean would have increased noise levels.

We hope the ISA will develop evidence-based regulations that protect marine life in this large and important ocean ecosystem.

A quieter world, even under the sea, will be a better and healthier world for all.