Researchers from the University of Maryland and Battelle have developed the first laboratory system to examine the effects of pile driving on fish. Pile driving is when long, hollow steel pipes are pounded into the ocean floor to support structures such as wind turbines. Unfortunately, pile driving creates very loud booms underwater that can be very detrimental to the health of nearby marine animals.
Government regulations require pile driving to stay underneath specific sound thresholds. However, these thresholds are based on rough estimates with limited data. The laboratory seeks to examine the effects on fish more closely and accurately.
Juvenile Chinook salmon were inserted into a 9.5" wide tube of 1.5" steel. The fish were given time for their swim bladders to fill which would allow them to reach weightlessness. This is an important step that was skipped in previous tests. The fish were then exposed to various impulses, sounds and vibrations. The harm to the fish was split into three categories - minor, moderate and mortal.
This information is being shared with regulators in hopes to improve the process of pile driving and to protect marine life.
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June 20, 2012