[Coral-List] plea for help

mtupper mtupper at coastal-resources.org
Mon Jun 2 16:46:38 EDT 2014

Hi Katherine,

The only study I know of involving anthropogenic sounds and coral survival is
the study by Woodside testing seismic survey effects on Scott Reef in Western
Australia. Seismic air guns typically produce sounds of around 210 dB, compared
to 240 dB for low-frequency active (LFA) sonar. Sonar may therefore be capable
of causing more damage, but LFA sonar is normally directed horizontally away
from the boat, so that it propagates much further. This may be more of an issue
to marine mammals and certain hearing-specialist fish than to corals. Seismic
air guns are directed straight at the bottom where corals would be, but the
Scott Reef study detected no damage to living corals from seismic testing at
typical sound levels.

I believe there has been some testing of anthropogenic noise on coral planulae
but I haven't looked into that for a long time. I would assume that the effects
would be similar to those on fish embryos and recently-hatched fish larvae,
which can be lethal within 10-100 m of a sound source. This could potentially be
a problem if, for example, coral spawning was occurring concurrent to the noise
generation. I haven't seen any studies of sonar or seismic testing effects on
coral spawn, but that doesn't mean that none exist.

You might want to Google "Woodside report on Scott Reef" and go from there, but
hopefully someone on the list knows a lot more than I about anthropogenic noise
effects on coral.


Dr. Mark Tupper
Coastal Resources Association
2503-13618 100 Ave., Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 0A8
Email: mtupper at coastal-resources.org
Tel. +1-778-903-6420

> On June 1, 2014 at 2:08 PM kmuzik at gmail.com wrote:
> I would like to send out a message on the coral-list.
> Please let me know how to do so. Here is the query I would like to post:
> What will be the effects of sonar on marine life from the RIMPAC naval
> exercises here in Hawai'i, starting this June and ending in July? There
> will be midfrequency active sonar (1kHz-10kHz) used to assist with
> navigation and hunt for quiet submarines. RIMPAC this year includes 43
> ships from 23 countries (this year, China too! along with South Korea,
> Japan, Bulgaria, Colombia, etc.), 25,000 people, more than 200 aircraft and
> submarines practicing war, sinking ships, sending Aegis missiles aloft to
> Kwajalein, etc etc. Besides noisy rocket launches, there will be Boeing
> V-22 Ospreys and Sikorsky S-61N Helicopters hovering around, helping to
> test the new Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator rocket. There are 1,100
> square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,00 square miles
> of controlled airspace. While the Hawaii Operating Range consists of
> 235,000 square miles, the extended Temporary Operating Area includes 2.1
> million square miles and extends all the way to Wake Island.
> The National Marine Fisheries Service explicitly allows Navy sonar tests
> and training exercises to result in the deaths of specific numbers of
> whales and dolphins. NOAA authorized the Navy to kill up to 20 whales and
> dolphins among 10 different species living here during the course of its
> sonar exercises.
> Nobody is talking about corals.
> I am.
> I have 15 minutes on a Panel Discussion about RIMPAC, Saturday June 7, to
> talk about the effects of sonar on marine life. I have evidence suggesting
> that sonar can kill marine mammals by causing their organs to hemorrhage or
> by frightening them so they beach, but I need data about the effects of
> sonar on corals. I VERY MUCH want to include coral in my presentation.
> I am aware that planulae can "hear" where an appropriate reef to settle is,
> I of course know that polyps shrink away from vibrations (from predators,
> cameras etc). I am sure that noise is a destructive factor (whether from
> detonations for oil exploration, offshore construction projects, huge
> ships, war practice, and war itself) but I have no evidence. I am searching
> for data on the effects of sonar on corals, at whatever life stage. Can
> someone please provide me data for corals?
> Thank you, Aloha!
> Katherine Muzik
> Kaua'i
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> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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