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New study explores threat to whales from ferry noise

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

What is it like for whales visiting San Francisco Bay? For one thing, scientists say, it’s very noisy.

Researchers have long known that ocean-going container ships cause underwater noise that can threaten marine mammals like whales. But researchers at San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center in Tiburon have found that high-speed ferries and other smaller water craft that cross San Francisco Bay can be almost as noisy, creating a challenging environment for whales visiting the bay.

“We have to ask, what kind of an environment are we creating for these animals?” said Ellen Hines, a professor of geology and environment at San Francisco State who supervised the research. “It’s got to be both confusing and dangerous for them.”

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