• Some sailors off the Iberian Peninsula are turning to heavy metal to deter killer whales from crashing into their boats.
  • A marine mammal researcher told Insider that this strategy could backfire.
  • The music will also increase human-made ocean noise, which is already a serious problem for marine animals.

Sailors use it heavy metal music intended to deter orcas from crashing into their boats may prove to be a strategy that backfires.

After a series of incidents this year in which a population of killer whales near the Iberian Peninsula began attacking and sinking sailboats, sailors in the region are looking for ways to scare away the huge marine mammals.

A German sailor told the story New York Times that his crew turned to a heavy metal playlist, flew through underwater speakers, scare away the orcas – although in his experience the playlist has been a complete failure.

Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, told Business Insider that using brash and roaring melodies to avoid orcas could help the whale find the boat.

“At first, playing loud sounds underwater could mask the distinctive sounds of sailboats, but eventually the whales picked up on this and used it to more easily locate the ships playing them,” Trites said.

Trites also explained that orcas hear at higher frequencies than humans, which means that trying to drown out the sounds of sailboats that orcas have come to recognize is an exercise in futility.

Ultimately, this practice is not encouraged.

The only way heavy metal or any other music can effectively discourage orcas from approaching a boat is to play it loud enough to cause the animal pain and hearing loss, Trites said. (Needless to say, people shouldn’t do this.)

Additionally, Trites told Business Insider that if mariners adopted this method, the most harmful effect would be additional noise pollution in the ocean.

“The biggest problem with playing music underwater is that it ultimately only adds to the noise in the ocean, which can have harmful effects on other marine life,” Trites said.

They say noise pollution is already a serious problem for marine animals, whose sounds are used to attract mates, communicate with friends and family, track food sources, avoid predators and navigate the ocean. from NOAA. Sound travels faster and much farther in water than in air, making it a useful tool for underwater species, scientists say they noticed.

Man-made noise pollution comes from a variety of sources, including ships, energy production through wind turbines, underwater mining, and even low-flying aircraft. Anthropogenic climate change is also affecting underwater soundscapes, research shows.

For now, scientists are still not sure how to stop the Iberian killer whale population from crashing into boats, but experts say there are a number of ways to stop it. protect seafarers during these meetings.

These methods include: avoiding the orcas or keeping your distance if detected, depowering the boat and lowering the sails, maintaining a low profile when approaching the boat, keeping a firm hold on the boat in case it rams the ship, and waiting until the orcas have left the area and not they will sail out again.

“At this point, the jury is still out on exactly what is happening and what can be done (if anything) to stop this continued attack on sailboats by this small group of killer whales,” Trites told Insider. “This is not a fad – orca specialists and mariners will need to coordinate efforts to experimentally test different deterrence methods and find out what ultimately works.”


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