Light and noise pollution from mingling operations could disrupt fragile ecosystems
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Deep-sea communities live in relative silence, and in the dark. Studies have shown that deep-sea fish communicate at low sound frequencies26, and are sensitive to acoustic changes to sense food falls – the fall of organic matter that provides an important source of nutrients to the deep sea27. Whales rely on sound for communication and navigation, and when encountering increased noise, change their vocalisation patterns and behaviour, and move away to new areas.28 Studies show that baleen whales experience chronic stress when exposed to increased shipping noise.29 Low-frequency mining noise could travel far from the mining site, with one estimate suggesting that noise from the Nautilus operation near Papua New Guinea could travel up to 600km from the site.30 This could have negative impacts on deep diving whales in the area.
Mining will also introduce bright light into an environment that, but for bioluminescence, is constantly dark, impacting species that are adapted to these conditions, such as deep-sea vent shrimp, which have been shown to be blinded by the lights used by researchers.31