Short strong sounds the biggest threat to marine life

Noise in harbours is similar to that which can be measured near a shipping lane, but there are indications that it also contains relatively rare but very strong transient sounds. Such sounds would, if present, have a significant detrimental impact on marine life. This is according to a new pre-study from Lighthouse the topic must be further investigated.


Interest in how underwater noise affects marine life has increased in recent years. In spite of this there´s not much research done in this area, neither in Sweden nor the rest of the world. The new Lighthouse Pre-study Environmental impact of a port's underwater noise, takes, among other things, a closer look at the few the studies that were previously done.

“A study from New Zealand measured really strong recurrent short-lived sounds in ports that can have a major impact on fish and other marine life. Our main conclusion I would say is that we need to find out if this is something general that also applies to our ports#, Torbjörn Johansson, a researcher at IVL, says.

What kind of sound is it? The New Zealand study doesn’t reveal that, but the Swedish researchers have theories about the sources of sound found in Swedish ports.

“In Gothenburg harbor, for example, there have been complaints about the loud noises that arise when cars drive on the roro vessels' ramps. Loading and unloading containers on ships also create loud noises. It radiates straight into the water.”

“It is the strong sharp sounds that are the biggest threat to marine life and these sounds can also travel very far. At the same time, we do not really know how ship’s actually sounds in our ports. Vessels are optimized to run at certain speeds and can make considerably more noise when they, as in ports, drive slower.”

Therefore, the Swedish researchers need to proceed with their own measurements. In the pre-study it is suggested that this is done through long-term recordings in several ports, for example in the port of Gothenburg.

The pre-study was made within the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Sustainable Shipping and in collaboration between IVL, Chalmers, SSPA, the port of Gothenburg, port of Lysekil and Furetank.