Deep-sea mining could threaten whales and dolphins, scientists warn

The loud noise from deep-sea mining could pose a serious threat to whales and other marine animals that use sound to communicate, scientists have said.

In a new report from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace, researchers warned that constant man-made noise could disrupt the unique frequencies that whales, dolphins and porpoises use to talk to each other and navigate the ocean.

The scientists said the noise from seafloor mining would “overlap” these frequencies and confuse and upset marine mammals, causing them to change their behavior.

They called for more research into the impact of mining on ocean life, noting that whales and dolphins are already under increased pressure from climate change and fishing activities.

A minke whale in the Thames, as a report warns of danger to cetaceans

Noise from deep-sea mining can disrupt the frequencies whales use to communicate with each other and navigate the ocean (Yui Mok/PA)

Dr. Kirsten Thompson, a lecturer in ecology at the University of Exeter, compared the noise to constant road works outside a house.

“Imagine your neighborhood suddenly being disrupted by construction work going on 24/7 – your life would change dramatically,” she said.

“Your mental health would be compromised, you could change your behavior to escape it. It is no different for whales or dolphins.”

Deep-sea mining is a relatively new – and controversial – method of extracting minerals and deposits from the ocean floor.

Some scientists believe the materials found in the seabed could help create new, greener technologies such as long-range electric cars, lighter rechargeable batteries and wind turbines that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

The study was published by the University of Exeter and Greenpeace

The scientific article is published by the University of Exeter and Greenpeace (Ben Birchall/PA)

However, other researchers have warned that deep-sea mining could affect the oceans in ways we don’t expect.

Scientists are particularly concerned about the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) between Mexico and Hawaii, which is home to more than 25 cetacean species, including dolphins and sperm whales, as 17 exploratory deep-sea mining contracts have already been awarded in this part of the Pacific Ocean .

“Deep-sea mining companies are determined to begin plundering the oceans despite little research on the impact this industry would have on whales, dolphins and other species,” said Greenpeace International campaigner Louisa Casson.

“Deep-sea mining can damage the oceans in ways we don’t fully understand – and at the expense of species such as the blue whale, which have been the focus of conservation efforts for many years.

“Governments cannot fulfill their commitments to protect the oceans if they allow deep-sea mining.”

Deep-sea mining companies have not yet received approval to begin mining commercially, but may receive approval later this year following March and July meetings of the International Seabed Authority, the body that regulates activity in international waters.

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