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Ocean Commotion

This school of fish is swimming off the coast of Thailand. Ocean animals use sound to find their way around. ROMEO GACAD—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Oceans are noisier than ever, scientists say. That’s because of sound pollution. The pollution is caused by humans. And it’s harming ocean life.

Researchers looked at thousands of studies of ocean sound. They found that noise pollution has increased over time. The noise makes ocean animals behave differently. This research was published in February, in the journal Science.

Sea animals use the natural sounds of the ocean to find their way around. They also use sound to communicate. “Sound travels very far underwater,” Francis Juanes says. He’s one of the article’s authors. “For fish, sound is probably a better way to sense their environment than light.”

Noise pollution drowns out natural sounds. It comes from activities like shipping or construction. Animals flee noisy areas. As a result, their habitats shrink.

But scientists say there’s a solution. Things like wind-powered ships and quieter propellers would lower the volume. And governments could pass laws limiting noise.