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Sea floor system streams ocean noise to protect whales

posted 18 Jan 2011, 11:50 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 18 Jan 2011, 11:54 ]

Want to listen live to a whale feeding off the coast of Canada from your desktop? A system designed by Spanish researchers trying to assess the impact of noise pollution on the world's whales can let you do just that. Called 'Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment' (LIDO), the system monitors underwater activity and automatically identifies different species of whales and dolphins. Stuart McDill has more.

VILANOVA I LA GELTRÚ, BARCELONA, SPAIN - Scientists asking how whales are affected by noise pollution underwater will soon know.

Spanish researchers have deployed a network of underwater microphones, called hydrophones, which are now automatically analysing what they hear on the ocean floor.

The project, called Listening to the Deep Ocean environment, or LIDO for short, is the brainchild of Dr Michel André of the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona.

He has made the network available to the public as well as researchers through a website streaming live feeds of whales and dolphins around the world.

Dr André says many whales depend on their hearing to perform basic functions and the noise of shipping or drilling can actually kill.

 DR MICHEL ANDRÉ, TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF CATALONIA SAYING:

"Some sounds can be so loud they can lead to the death of living organisms close by."

The LIDO website allows visitors to select a hydrophone and listen to any whales or dolphins within earshot.

This is the sound of a sperm whale hunting for krill which it finds by making a clicking sound and listening for an echo. So with the sound of a ship masking the echo it can go hungry.

DR MICHEL ANDRÉ, TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF CATALONIA SAYING:

"To compare them with humans, without vision we would have a lot of difficulty living, to them it is hearing with the information they receive and produce that allow them to live."

Shipping, fishing, the military and off-shore activities like drilling are all responsible for marine noise pollution - and it can't go on forever according to Dr André.

DR MICHEL ANDRÉ, TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF CATALONIA SAYING:

"Human beings who use the sea and produce noise have to realise that it has to stop. Working on public awareness is necessary and giving people the tools to prevent them from harming this environment."

European countries must comply with new marine noise pollution rules by next year - whether the rest of the world will follow is a moot question.

Stuart McDill, Reuters

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