"When humpback whales migrated to Glacier Bay in Alaska this year to spend the long summer days feeding, they arrived to something unusual: quieter waters.
As the COVID-19 pandemic slows international shipping and keeps cruise ships docked, scientists are finding measurably less noise in the ocean. That could provide momentary relief for whales and other marine mammals that are highly sensitive to noise.
Through networks of underwater hydrophones, scientists are hoping to learn how the mammals' communication changes when the drone of ships is turned down, potentially informing new policies to protect them.
'More needs to be done,' says Jason Gedamke, who manages the ocean acoustics program at NOAA Fisheries. 'When you have animals that for millions of years have been able to communicate over vast distances in the ocean, and then once we introduce noise and have increased sound levels and they can't communicate over those distances, clearly there's going to be some impact there.'"