Marine Pollution Bulletin (2023)

DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.115755


Shipping is the most pervasive source of marine noise pollution globally, yet its impact on sensitive fauna remains unclear. We tracked 10 harbour porpoises for 5–10 days to determine exposure and behavioural reactions to modelled broadband noise (10 Hz–20 kHz, VHF-weighted) from individual ships monitored by AIS. Porpoises spent a third of their time experiencing ship noise above ambient, to which they regularly reacted by moving away during daytime and diving deeper during night. However, even ships >2 km away (noise levels of 93 ± 14 dB re 1 μPa2) caused animals to react 5–9 % of the time (∼18.6 ships/day). Ships can thus influence the behaviour and habitat use of cetaceans over long distances, with worrying implications for fitness in coastal areas where anthropogenic noise from dense ship traffic repeatedly disrupt their natural behaviour.