Bright clownfish. Colorful corals. Floating seahorses.
These are just a few sights in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. That underwater world can be very peaceful. However, scientists say motorboats break through the calm. Noise from boat traffic can affect the reef’s fish.
Scientists studied how this racket impacts fish. They went to Lizard Island, Australia. “We six reefs,” scientist Sophie Nedelec said. They watched the reefs during season. The experts introduced “traffic calming” to three of the six reefs. That means they limited the number of boats in the area. Boats that the experts did allow through had to their speeds. That way, their engines were quieter. Scientists left the other three reefs alone.
The team kept track of 86 families of spiny chromis fish. The experts found that there were more fish in the calmer waters! There were 46 nests in the reefs with traffic calming. At the end of the study, 30 of them still had . Meanwhile, the noisy reefs had 40 nests. Only 16 of them had offspring at the end. Baby fish were also larger on the quieter reefs.
Nedelec thinks the findings can help fish. She said having less boat noise gives fish “relief.” The calmer waters allow fishy parents to do their jobs better.
Nedelec had other ideas as well. They included moving boating channels farther away from reefs. She also suggested boaters drive more slowly. Nedelec said: “These solutions put the power in the hands of local people.”
Updated May 20, 2022, 5:01 P.M. (ET)
By Alexa Tirapelli