The noise of Ukraine war may be harming marine mammals
This week our PeaceQuest Cape Breton essayist Sean Howard asks us to consider the impact of “the Sound of War.”
“It may seem that the noise all this mass-murder [in wars] makes is a secondary issue, symptomatic of the plague of war. But I believe modern war is itself symptomatic of an unholy crusade against nature, a dizzying—and deafening—array of crimes indicting not ‘human nature’ but our industriously imperial, manically-militarized age.”
Howard notes, “The major marine environments caught up in the madness—the Azov, Black, and Caspian Seas—are suffering equally grievously. On May 10, scientists reported a spike in dolphin deaths to the south of Ukraine, in Turkey and Bulgaria: animals stranded or caught in fishing nets attempting to flee the ‘acoustic trauma’ of ceaseless naval activity.
On June 7, the Guardian reported that ‘dolphins found along the coast of the Black Sea had suffered burns from explosions and other injuries to organs used for orientation. They also showed signs of starvation.’ In addition, pelicans from Africa, arriving in record low numbers, were described as ‘very disturbed by the bombing’ (and mining) of coastal lagoons and wetlands.”
After 9/11, the whales’ songs changed
On January 12 the Guardian reported the miracle of humpback-whale song, audible “up to 16,000 kilometres away.” But it wasn’t until the brief ‘shipping silence’ after 9/11 that whales were able to lower their voices to ‘pre-modern’ levels. Tellingly, scientists only registered this heartrending fact inadvertently, when some impromptu, “unplanned analysis” of the quiet seaways detected “the first link between underwater noise and stress levels in whales,” writes Howard.
Male humpback whales are known for their evocative songs, but their classic melodies are being shortened or silenced in reaction to shipping noise… Baleen whales such as humpbacks use songs to communicate, but in Japan, their voices are being drowned out by the din of cacophonous human activity.