Noise from Freighters and Cargo Ships Threaten Humpback Whales

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One of the biggest threats to humpback whales spending their summers in New England is being hit by a passing ship.

But a collision isn’t all they have to fear. A study published Wednesday found that low-frequency noise from passing freighters and cargo ships near the coast could be disrupting their ability to feed.

A team of researchers examining the foraging behavior of 10 whales in the Gulf of Maine found that some of these 40-ton cetaceans descended more slowly in the presence of ships, giving them less time to find the food they’d normally consume.  The whales also conducted fewer side-roll maneuvers — a technique they use to feed on a type of fish known as a sand lance that’s found just above the sea floor.

“Overall, I was kind of surprised that we were able to detect any response statistically just because these humpback whales are very adaptable,” said Hannah Blair, a graduate student at Stony Brook University in New York who led the analysis on the data.

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Source: Associated Press

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