Marine noise may harm lobsters

Photo credit: Roger Brown from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Research has shown that noise is unhealthy for humans, birds and small mammals, fishes and marine mammals, and now for lobsters.

Yahoo! News reports on an Australian study showing that lobsters living near a busy shipping lane had damage to their statocyst, an organ equivalent to the parts of the human inner ear controlling balance. The damage was similar to that caused by high intensity seismic air guns used in underwater exploration for gas and oil. Surprisingly, the lobsters didn’t appear to have any changes in their behavior nor was their righting reflex damaged–they were able to turn back to right side up after being turned upside down.

I suspect it’s harder to assess changes in lobster behavior than in mammals or humans, though, and there has to be some impact of the statocyst damage that research will eventually reveal.

The basic principle is that living organisms need energy exposure to survive, but too much energy exposure causes harm. This is true for plants, which need sun for photosynthesis but which are damaged by greater sun exposure caused by climate change; for humans, who need sun exposure to convert vitamin D to its active form, but can get sunburned and eventually deep wrinkles, pigmentation, and skin cancer from too much sun exposure; and for all animals, who use sound for finding food, avoiding prey, communicating, and entertainment, but are damaged by excess noise exposure.

For humans, remember: if it sounds loud, it is too loud, and auditory damage will inevitably occur.

Avoid loud noise exposure or wear earplugs if you can’t.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

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