Effects of exposure to seismic airgun use on hearing of three fish species

J Acoust Soc Am. 2005 Jun;117(6):3958-71. doi: 10.1121/1.1904386.


Seismic airguns produce considerable amounts of acoustic energy that have the potential to affect marine life. This study investigates the effects of exposure to a 730 in.3 airgun array on hearing of three fish species in the Mackenzie River Delta, the northern pike (Esox lucius), broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), and lake chub (Couesius plumbeus). Fish were placed in cages in the 1.9 m of water and exposed to five or 20 airgun shots, while controls were placed in the same cage but without airgun exposure. Hearing in both exposed and control fish were then tested using the auditory brainstem response (ABR). Threshold shifts were found for exposed fish as compared to controls in the northern pike and lake chub, with recovery within 24 hours of exposure, while there was no threshold shift in the broad whitefish. It is concluded that these three species are not likely to be substantially impacted by exposure to an airgun array used in a river seismic survey. Care must be taken, however, in extrapolation to other species and to fishes exposed to airguns in deeper water or where the animals are exposed to a larger number of airgun shots over a longer period of time.