How water sports are hurting marine life

Boating and watersports
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Light, litter and noise from boating and water sports are all major stressors on marine life, a new study aims to enhance our knowledge of the effects of these stressors.

Researchers will be gathering data from sporting events, leisure boating, tourism and beach activities. The project will assess the impact that these activities have on the environment and marine life in order to offer further guidance to organisers and water sports enthusiasts.

Mike Laflin said: “I’ve worked in the sports industry for 30 years, providing market intelligence and information services and a few years ago I started to measure the impact of sporting events on host cities and nations. I’m excited to support this new research so that we can understand more about how our activities impact the environment and how we can mitigate against any negative effects.”

Theresa Laflin said: “We are very excited to be able to support all the wonderful work that the university is doing in the area of marine research, and for increasing our awareness of the detrimental impact we have on our environment.”

The PhD project will be supervised by Tamara Galloway, Professor of Ecotoxicology at Exeter, who conducts research into the human health effects of pollutants, particularly micro-plastics in water. Steve Simpson, Associate Professor in Marine Biology and Global Change at the University of Exeter, who has shown that man-made noise is having a detrimental effect on the marine world.

Simpson said: “Noise from offshore construction, shipping and motorboats all change the ocean soundscape, disrupting acoustic communication, robbing animals of fundamental sensory information and causing stress. However, working with industry we have found that by managing when and where noise is made, and developing new technology to reduce the noise, we can mitigate the impacts of noise. Finding solutions to reduce the impacts of sporting activities will further help to protect the marine environment.”

Galloway said: “We’ll be looking at all forms of pollution both from everyday leisure activities and major sporting events. Investigating specific events gives us the opportunity to measure environmental quality before and after the event, and to return after a period of time to assess recovery. Such an event could be seen as an ‘acute stressor’. Then we’ll also assess ongoing sporting activities, akin to a ‘chronic stressor’ and will try to compare and contrast different types of impact.”

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