ALASKA, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/24: Orca (Killer whale) off Wrangell Island, in Southeast Alaska, USA. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Orca (Killer whale) off Wrangell Island, in Southeast Alaska, USA. Wolfgang Kaehler—2015 Wolfgang Kaehler

Ship Noises Could Hurt Endangered Killer Whales, Study Finds

Feb 03, 2016

Low-frequency noises produced by ships could be hurting endangered whale species, according to a new study.

The study, published Tuesday in PeerJ, concludes that smaller toothed whales, such as orcas and dolphins, could be hurt by the same low-frequency ship rumblings that hurt larger whales, the Washington Post reports.

Noises at the right frequency are already know to sometimes leave whales lost or unable to hunt and the intensity of these noises has increased by nearly 10 times since the 1960s, according to the Post. Scott Veirs of the Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School set up a test site in Washington state to see if higher frequencies had gotten louder as well and found that not only did the 1,600 ships sailing through the site emit the low rumbles, but also emitted noise at medium and high frequencies that would disturb whales like the Orca.

The team has a simple suggestion until more advanced methods are deployed to ship technology—slow down. "Decreasing speed by six knots could decrease noise intensity by half," Veirs told the Guardian.

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