Likely sensitivity of bottlenose dolphins to pile-driving noise


J.A. David, CJC Ltd., Sunnybraes, Boarshills, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8PU, UK. Email:


Pile driver-generated noise has the potential to affect dolphin populations adversely as it is detectable up to 40 km from the source. At 9 kHz, this noise is capable of masking strong vocalisations within 10–15 km and weak vocalisations up to approximately 40 km. The masking radius reduces as the frequency increases: 6 km at 50 kHz and 1.2 km at 115 kHz. The impacts of masking are expected to be limited by the intermittent nature of pile driver noise, the dolphin's directional hearing, their ability to adjust vocalisation amplitude and frequency, and the structured content of their signals. Behavioural modifications have been observed in response to underwater sounds, including those produced by pile drivers, although in the latter case this may have been due to redistribution of prey species. A range of mitigation measures are proposed that are aimed at reducing the impact of pile driver noise on dolphin populations.