Boat noise impacts risk assessment in a coral reef fish but effects depend on engine type

Mark I. McCormick*, Bridie J.M. Allan, Harry Harding, Stephen D. Simpson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
340 Downloads (Pure)


Human noise pollution has increased markedly since the start of industrialization and there is international concern about how this may impact wildlife. Here we determined whether real motorboat noise affected the behavior, space use and escape response of a juvenile damselfish (Pomacentrus wardi) in the wild, and explored whether fish respond effectively to chemical and visual threats in the presence of two common types of motorboat noise. Noise from 30 hp 2-stroke outboard motors reduced boldness and activity of fish on habitat patches compared to ambient reef-sound controls. Fish also no longer responded to alarm odours with an antipredator response, instead increasing activity and space use, and fewer fish responded appropriately to a looming threat. In contrast, while there was a minor influence of noise from a 30 hp 4-stroke outboard on space use, there was no influence on their ability to respond to alarm odours, and no impact on their escape response. Evidence suggests that anthropogenic noise impacts the way juvenile fish assess risk, which will reduce individual fitness and survival, however, not all engine types cause major effects. This finding may give managers options by which they can reduce the impact of motorboat noise on inshore fish communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3847
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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