fish face death


Credit: By Lesley Richardson, The Scotsman, 4 August 2010

Noise pollution from shipping, drilling for oil or wind farms could lead fish away from their natural habitat into areas where they could die, potentially devastating future fish stocks.

A UK-led team made the discovery while working on the Great Barrier Reef as well as debunking the myth that fish have three-second memories.

Dr Steve Simpson, senior researcher in the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “When only a few weeks old, baby reef fish face a monumental challenge in locating and choosing suitable habitat.

“Reef noise gives them vital information but if they can learn, remember and become attracted towards the wrong sounds, we might be leading them in all the wrong directions.”

After developing for weeks at sea, baby tropical fish rely on natural sounds made by fish, shrimps and sea urchins as a cue to find coral reefs where they can survive and thrive.

With human noise pollution from ships, wind farms and oil prospecting on the increase, this crucial behaviour is coming under threat.

The study is published in Behavioral Ecology and was carried out at Lizard Island Research Station.

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