Breanna B Utah

Sound and Oil Are Killing Marine Life

Sound waves travel for thousands of miles underwater. They are deafening and never go away. Oil can stay in the ocean for decades. It's a expensive and extensive process to clean it up. What can this country do about it?

Sound and Oil Pollution is Killing Marine Life

Imagine waking up to these loud throbbing sounds that don’t go away. Imagine standing right next to an atomic bomb explosion. All day, everyday. Most marine animals, especially marine mammals, are very sensitive to sound. They use echolocation to locate food, navigate, avoid predators, find mates, and communicate with others. Sound can travels thousands of miles underwater, whereas sight is only useful for several meters.The anthropogenic (human-made) sound coming from all these ships is unbearable to sea creatures who depend on sending and receiving sound.

Every boat that is on the water is sending sound waves through the water. On the average day, there are around 60,000 ships on the oceans. A sound made in the Indian Ocean can travel all the way to Washington. Explosives, oceanographic experiments, underwater construction, and ship traffic are just a few of the examples of massive sound waves. A sound of 190 db is equal to standing in the middle of a bomb explosion. Naval, oil mining, and commercial ships often put out at least 250 db of sounds waves. These waves are a constant; they never go away. They are drowning out the natural sounds that are crucial to the survival of these marine creatures.

You might ask, “Isn’t the ocean a naturally noisy place?” and to that I would say, “Yes, it is.” Waves, lightning strikes, and rainfall are a few examples of legitimate noises. However, these sounds are natural and whales can easily adapt to it. Naval experimentation and explosives are not ordinary and drown out the favorable sounds of the oceans.

Oil spills are also another contributor to the endangerment of marine life. Oil spill refers to any unintentional release of an oil into the environment due to human activity (releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells). Seismic testing is a method of searching for oil and gas by making a map the seafloor using an air gun. From the water’s surface, the gun generates a blast of compressed air that penetrates the ocean floor then bounces back up to a receiver. This receiver relays data about layers of sediment, rocks, and potential fuel deposits below. According to Oceana, these blasts are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks at a time. Seismic testing can drive marine life out of their natural habitat, lower their ability to echolocate food, cause stress and disorientation, and ruin their ability to communicate by masking calls or forcing the animals to use more energy to be heard clearly.

Oil and sound pollution are destroying our oceans without the human race knowing it. Each of these can and will kill our whale and dolphin population. They cause hemorrhages (an escape of blood from a ruptured blood vessel) strandings, permanent hearing damage, and death. There are a few potential solutions to these problems. Offshore wind power could provide energy without the expense of oil pollution. says that 53% of Americans live in coastal areas, where energy costs and demands are high and land-based energy is limited. Offshore wind resources have the potential to supply large quantities of renewable energy to major U.S. coastal cities, such as New York City and Boston without filling our oceans with oil. Winds blowing off the coasts are more uniform and powerful than land wind, making offshore wind an excellent source of energy. If we could place more wind turbines outside coastlines, electric cars could become more common, thereby reducing the need for oil and gas. This would save the air and ocean health.

Another potential solution is soundproofing ships and their engines. There are already companies that do this, but not for large commercial ships. According to, soundproofing an engine could prevent 55% of sound waves from passing through a boat’s paneling. Soundproof insulation can also block out fire, water, and dust. 55% may not seem like much sound blocking, but the whales will be forever grateful if we can soundproof even 25% of the 60,000 ships cruising the oceans.

Sound and oil are killing our ocean animals. There are approximately 2,270 marine mammal species that are on the endangered list. Half of them are critically endangered, meaning that there are fewer than 700 individuals left. The anthropogenic (human-made) sound coming from all the ships is unbearable to sea creatures who depend on sending and receiving sound. If we don’t find alternatives to use nationwide, we could lose so many of these wonderful creatures that did nothing wrong. Mr or Mrs President, will you be the one to save our ocean animals? Will you soundproof commercial ships and find alternative energy sources? 

Spanish Fork High School

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