The final episode of the nation’s favourite TV offering, Blue Planet II, saw Exeter’s Dr. Steve Simpson make a key contribution to the show.
One key issue the documentary explored is the impact of man-made noise pollution on marine ecosystems
With oceans under more threat now than ever before, the BBC hit’s final installment laid bare the damage humanity is wreaking in the seas, while offering messages of hope and calls to action. One key issue the documentary explored is the impact of man-made noise pollution on marine ecosystems, with the help of Dr. Simpson, the university’s Associate Professor in Marine Biology and Global Change.
Man-made noise is now everywhere in the ocean, having an effect on all kinds of marine creatures.
“There’s a whole language underwater that we’re only just starting to get a handle on.”
“We’re only now just realising how much fish use sounds,” says Steve, “and there’s a whole language underwater that we’re only just starting to get a handle on.” It is this language fish rely on in order to survive, from being able to find a mate and detect food, to warning each other of danger and scaring off predators. When this method of communication is drowned out by the likes of motorboats, underwater construction and shipping pathways, fish colonies becomes vulnerable to attack as their ability to make such vital interactions is limited.
But Simpson believes it isn’t too late to reverse the effects of pollution.
“We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity to save our blue planet, so acting now and acting big will work,” says Steve.
“We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity to save our blue planet, so acting now and acting big will work,” says Steve. Whilst perhaps not as obvious as coral bleaching or reams of floating plastic, noise is one of the most controllable pollutants and can be reduced almost instantly: “we can choose where we make the noise; we can choose when we make the noise. We can directly reduce the amount of noise that we make, and we can start doing that today.”
On being involved in such a groundbreaking project, Dr. Simpson is unequivocal: “It has been the most exciting period of my career. To know that there are hundreds of millions of people immersing themselves in the ocean – often for the first time – is fantastic.”
As the curtain is brought down on what is surely David Attenborough’s masterpiece, one thing is for certain: Sunday evenings won’t quite be the same now we must all return to land.