Research: Lobsters Harmed by Seismic Surveys
A new study of the impact of seismic air guns used in geological surveys of the seafloor has found that the sensory organs and righting reflexes of rock lobster can be damaged by exposure to air gun signals.
The researchers exposed rock lobster to seismic air gun noise during field tests in Tasmania’s Storm Bay. Lead author Dr. Ryan Day said rock lobsters were chosen because they are a high value fishery and an important part of global marine ecosystems.
“Previous studies have shown that the statocyst, a sensory organ on a lobster’s head, is critical in controlling their righting reflex, enabling them to remain coordinated and evade predators. After exposing lobsters to the equivalent of a commercial air gun signal at a range of 100-150 meters, our study found that the animals suffered significant and lasting damage to their statocyst and righting reflexes.
“The damage was incurred at the time of exposure and persisted for at least one year - surprisingly, even after the exposed lobsters molted,” Day said. The impairment would likely affect a lobster’s ability to function in the wild.
Earlier tests conducted by the universities found that noise from seismic airguns used significantly increases mortality in scallops and zooplankton.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research by scientists from Australia's University of Tasmania and Curtin University was funded by the Australian Government, Origin Energy and the Victorian Government’s CarbonNet Project.