Ocean noise refers to sounds produced by human activities that can interfere with or obscure the ability of marine animals to hear natural sounds in the ocean.
Many marine organisms depend on their ability to listen for their survival. Sound is the most efficient means of communication under water and is the main way in which many marine species gather and understand information about their environment. Many aquatic animals use sound to search for prey, locate pairs and offspring, avoid predators, guide their navigation and locate the habitat, and listen and communicate with each other.
During the last century, human activities such as maritime transport, recreational navigation and energy exploration have increased along our coasts, offshore and in deep ocean environments. The noise of these activities travels long distances under water, which causes increases and changes in ocean noise levels.
The increase in noise levels can adversely affect animals and ocean ecosystems. These higher noise levels may reduce the animals’ ability to communicate with potential partners, other members of the group, their descendants or feeding partners. Noise can also reduce the ability of oceanic animals to listen to environmental cues that are vital to survival, including the keys to avoiding predators, finding food and navigating to preferred habitats.