If we had our choice, we’d just study marine wildlife on its own terms. Realistically, the animals we study live in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. Human activities influence how loud the ocean is, how much fish is available to support marine mammal populations, and how many whales are killed by ship strikes or how many dolphins and porpoise are entangled in fishing nets.
A lot of the work we do measures behavioural responses of killer whales to boat traffic. You can read about those papers here, here, here and here. If boats disturb whales over and over again, this can affect the whales’ activity budgets, which can carry energetic costs. Ultimately, all the ship traffic – whalewatching boats, container ships, ferries and oil tankers – increse ambient noise levels in important whale habitats. Read more about the issue of chronic ocean noise on our Acoustics page.