25 September 2023

AIMS sounds out marine noise

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The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has conducted the first real-world seismic experiment assessing the effects of marine noise on fish and pearl oysters.

Using he seismic vessel, BGP Explorer, AIMS conducted the tests over 10 days above two sites off the northwest of Western Australia

Project Science Leader for AIMS, Mark Meekan said it was the first time anyone had used a dedicated seismic vessel to look at the effects of seismic energy on pearl oysters and on fish.

“This is an enormous piece of research,” Dr Meekan said.

“The answers are not going to apply just to Australia, they’ll be important internationally.”

He said seismic surveys were used to produce images of the various geological layers and their location beneath the earth’s surface. Sound waves penetrated the seabed and, depending on the depth and characteristics of the geological layers, were reflected back at different time intervals and intensity.

“The study is looking specifically at pearl oysters and red emperor, which are a commercially important indicator species for other demersal fish,” Dr Meekan said.

“The researchers tagged 390 red emperors and are tracking the fish via an array of 96 acoustic receivers to document their movements before, during and after exposure to the seismic sound.”

Acting Regional Manager at the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Ellen Smith said looking into the effect of seismic activities on demersal fish was important because their abundance and biodiversity was an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.

“We want to find out if fish change their behaviour and leave the area, stop spawning, hide or return to normal,” Ms Smith said.

“If we know how demersal fish react we can manage our fisheries appropriately to ensure long-term sustainability.”

More information on the project can be found on the AIMS website at this PS News link.

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