Do Marine Mammals Experience Stress Related to Anthropogenic Noise?

TitleDo Marine Mammals Experience Stress Related to Anthropogenic Noise?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsWright, Andrew J., Soto Natacha Aguilar, Baldwin Ann Linda, Bateson Melissa, Beale Colin M., Clark Charlotte, Deak Terrence, Edwards Elizabeth F., Fernández Antonio, Godinho Ana, Hatch Leila T., Kakuschke Antje, Lusseau David, Martineau Daniel, L. Romero Michael, Weilgart Linda S., Wintle Brendan A., and
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Psychology
EndNote Rec Number2859

Sound travels much further than light in the marine environment. As a result, marine mammals,
especially cetaceans, rely heavily on sound for many important life functions, including breeding and
foraging. This reliance on sound means it is quite likely that exposure to noise will have some
detrimental effects on these life functions. However, there has been little application to marine
mammals of the knowledge available in other species of stress responses to noise and other stressors.
In this paper we begin to integrate what is known about marine mammals with the current knowledge
gained in terrestrial mammals about stress physiology, specifically considering physiological and
psychological context and thus also cumulative and synergistic impacts. We determined that it is
reasonable to extrapolate information regarding stress responses in other species to marine mammals,
because these responses are highly conserved among all species in which they have been examined to
date. As a result, we determined that noise acts as a stressor to marine mammals. Furthermore, given
that marine mammals will likely respond in a manner consistent with other species studied, repeated
and prolonged exposures to stressors (including or induced by noise) will be problematic for marine
mammals of all ages. A range of issues may arise from the extended stress response including, but
not limited to, suppression of reproduction (physiologically and behaviorally), accelerated aging and
sickness-like symptoms. We also determined that interpretation of a reduction in behavioral
responses to noise as acclimation will be a mistake in many situations, as alternative reasons for the
observed results are much more likely. We recommend that research be conducted on both stress
responses and life-history consequences of noise exposure in marine mammals, while emphasizing
that very careful study designs will be required. We also recommend that managers incorporate the
findings presented here in decisions regarding activities that expose marine mammals to noise. In
particular, the effects of cumulative and synergistic responses to stressors can be very important and
should not be dismissed lightly.