BRISTOL, England, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Increasing human noise pollution in the world's oceans could be leading fish away from good habitats to their deaths, U.K. researchers say.
A team from the University of Bristol working on Australia's Great Barrier Reef says baby fish, after developing for weeks in the open ocean, use natural noises to find the coral reefs where they survive and thrive, a university release said Tuesday.
But they found that even short exposure to artificial, human-caused noise led the fish to become attracted to inappropriate noise sources.
"When only a few weeks old, baby reef fish face a monumental challenge in locating and choosing suitable habitat," Steve Simpson of Bristol's school of biological sciences said.
"Reef noise gives them vital information, but if they can learn, remember and become attracted towards the wrong sounds, we might be leading them in all the wrong directions.
"Anthropogenic noise has increased dramatically in recent years, with small boats, shipping, drilling, pile driving and seismic testing now sometimes drowning out the natural sounds of fish and snapping shrimps," Simpson said.
The breakdown of natural behavior could have devastating impacts on populations and future fish stocks, Simpson said.
"If fish accidentally learn to follow the wrong sounds, they could end up stuck next to a construction site or follow ships back out to sea."