Pandemic Reaches All Parts of The Globe Including Underwater
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt all over even underwater. That's a humpback whale singing in Glacier Bay Alaska. Scientists are finding the oceans have been quieter as shipping traffic has fallen. Here's NPR's Lawrence Summer. A lot of scientists have had to cancel their field work this year, but not Christine Gabriel. She can work all alone in a boat on glacier bay. On a cool rainy morning she spots which he's looking for and captures is on her smartphone. Yeah, there about five Wales working this one little area. Breathing when they're up. There Humpback Whales. It looks to me like they might be feeding on schools of fish. Gabriel is a wildlife biologist with glacier bay. National Park for thirty five years. The park service has been keeping track of the humpback population here. One of the groups is a mother and calf are seventh for the year. So that's really good news Gabriel also keeps track of them below the surface. Down at the bottom of the bay, there's a hydrophone continually. Recording sound can travel for miles underwater. Than, Awale can see and humpbacks make all sorts of calls they coordinate feeding or just stay in touch, but there are other things in the water that make noise to. Free, pandemic boats and cruise ships were common in Glacier Bay and Gabriel and her colleagues found that when ships are loud, the whales change their calls kind of the way we talk at allowed party in order to communicate with each other. They might have to be close together. They might have to repeat themselves, or they might have to wait for a quieter moment, but this year things sound different. It's much quieter and just by listening to it. You can tell. The cruise ships are gone. Boat Tours are way down. The pandemic has kind of created this unexpected opportunity for science kind of a once in a lifetime chance to look at well communication behavior in its natural undisturbed form, and scientists are finding that elsewhere in the Pacific to. The southern resident killer whales aren't endangered group of whales. David Barklay is an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. He measured ocean noise in the waters near Vancouver. Where those endangered killer whales live, he found there was about half as much noise in April compared to months prior. Even my mom said it's kind of obvious. Don't you think less ships less noise I mean the which is you know it's always hard when you get roasted by your mom, but it matters for killer whales because they need sound to hunt through echo location, dislike bat does did ship sound can interfere with that, and it can cause chronic stress, but the quiet is likely a temporary thing says. Says Michael Jasni who works on marine mammals at the natural resources defense council right now there may be some break, but we have to look forward to what happens afterwards. Jazzy says the port of in Cougar is a good example of where something is being done about ocean noise ships get a discount on their fees if they're retrofitted to be quieter or simply slowdown, which reduces noise, but that's just in one place you know. Shipping is a global industry, and we're not seeing that kind of global commitment to change still jazz knees hope is that what scientists learned from Wales now could help protect them from human noise in the future Lorne summer, NPR news.