Scientists suggest that increased background noise and specific sound sources might impact marine animals in several ways. The following sections discuss the effects on marine animals that have been documented in the scientific literature. These effects include: behavioral responses, such as changes in movement, breathing patterns, and vocalizations; masking; hearing loss; physiological stress; and strandings.

Although the effects of noise on humans have been studied extensively, only recently has a substantial amount of effort been devoted to studying the effects of sound on animals, particularly marine mammals. Current knowledge is based on research on a small number of animals and is complicated by differences between the individual animals. In addition, it is difficult and expensive to study marine animals. A variety of methods are being applied or developed to help measure the effect of underwater sound on marine animals,. Much more scientific research is needed to fully understand the effects of anthropogenic sounds on marine animals.


  • National Research Council. 2003, "Ocean Noise and Marine Mammals." The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. 
  • Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995, "Marine Mammals and Noise." San Diego, CA: Academic Press.