Do Boats Kill (Or Scare) Fish? 7 Facts You Should Know

In Boating by Shelby Sullivan

With all the talk today about protecting our earth and it’s wildlife, you might wonder if your water recreation is hurting the environment and its inhabitants.

Do Boats Hurt Or Scare Fish Away?
There are many factors of boating that can hurt the ecosystem including noise, collisions, and waste. As long as the waste is kept inside the boat fish will typically not be negatively affected by bosts.

Underwater life is not silent. This is true for both freshwater and saltwater bodies of water. But there is increasing levels of noise from boating and other human activities.

The noise caused by humans can be harmful for our marine wildlife.

7 Ways Boats May Harm Fish And Wildlife

1. Lack of Communication due to Noise

One major issue caused by the noise created by humans and our watercrafts is a breakdown or lack of communication between the underwater wildlife.

A large range of underwater species uses acoustic or sound signals to communicate with each other. These sounds include chirps, pops, and knocks using their fins or teeth.

This means that while our equipment is close to the marine life, they can no longer communicate with the other creatures under the ocean.

They will not be able to hear the other animals and the other animals will not be able to hear them.

This jams communication between the creatures and can cause them to be ineffective in achieving the goals of their communication.

This can include decreasing their ability to find food, mates, or to avoid any predators.

2. Loss of Senses due to Noise

Not only can the noise caused by humans create a disconnect in communication, but it can also mess with the senses of the underwater animals.

The loud noise caused by boats can interfere with an animal’s basic cognitive abilities including sight or smell.

They can lose the ability to process chemical information that they rely on after a predatory attack. This leaves them vulnerable to secondary attacks and can be dangerous for them.

They can also lose their ability to use their natural navigation. There are quite a few underwater animals that use sonar for direction as well as communication.

3. Loud Noise is also Harmful

Boat noise can become commonplace for fish and other wildlife. This can decrease their reactions to frightening predators. They become used to the noise and the activity and they lose all sense of fear no matter what is presented.

Large amounts of boat noise can also cause learning impairment for fish.

Because these fish fail to learn, they are more susceptible to danger and other issues and will die.

The noise can also force fish to move into different habitats that might be more dangerous, have less food sources, and decreases their abilities.

4. Intense Underwater Noise can Kill

Intense underwater noise that is caused from underwater blasts can be very dangerous to the animal life. Fish, whales, and other animals can suffer from acoustic trauma or even die when exposed to these noises.

Animals such as whales or dolphins can be highly susceptible to this noise. They can suffer from vascular damage on their brains, lungs, or other organs.

This can also cause panic and cause an animal to surface too fast.

This can cause nitrogen bubbles in an animal’s blood and they can have an embolism that could cause death.

Beyond the risk of an animal panicking, they can also get disoriented and go to shore where they do not belong. Large animals like whales can become beached and get stuck. This can be dangerous for the animals and cause people to panic who are not familiar with what to do.

One of the biggest offenders are noise sonar devices often used by the military. This can drive animals out of their habitats or even out of the water.

Because of the risks of noise for marine wildlife, it would be beneficial to create quiet areas or other laws that can reduce the impact of noise.

5. Pollution Is A Killer

While noise is the main cause of damage to underwater life, this is not the only threat they face.

You might not realize it, but it is possible that you are polluting the bodies of water you are boating in.

Even if you are not throwing your trash over the side of the boat, you could be polluting the water bodies you are boating in.

Your boat could be leaking oil, fuel, or cleaning agents while out on the water. After time and from enough sources, this can add up and hurt the environment and the animals that go with it.

Your hull paint can also be toxic to the environment.

There is also the danger of changing the PH balance in the water and disrupting a fish’s habitat. The life in these ecosystems are very delicate and the chemical change in the water can be dangerous to the animals that live there.

To lessen this impact you will want to make sure you are using non toxic paint and cleaning supplies. You will also want to make sure that your boat is not leaking oil or fuel or other agents.

Pollution is not only dangerous for the plants and animals in the water body, but it can be dangerous for the humans that are in or on the body of water.

6. Animal Collisions Cause Problems

Boats are large and dangerous to wildlife. When a boat travels through a marine animal’s ecosystem, they have a chance of collision with the hull or the propeller.

This can be even more dangerous for larger and slower marine life.

They are unable to get out of the boat quick enough, and can be injured by the hull or propellers.

Impact with the propeller can cause scrapes that can harm the animal. They can also hit themselves on the hull causing great injuries that can become much more harmful later.

7. Ecosystem Destruction

The body of water and the shoreline can be damaged by boats and other watercrafts.

Much in the same way that a road or pathway changes after continuous treading, water and the ecosystem can be changed but the constant travel of boats.

Waterways that have high levels of boat traffic impact the clarity and quality of the water.

Motor use can kick up the sediment in the water which can make it cloudy and prevent the sunlight from getting in. This can cause an increase in algae which can also choke out the sunlight.

With a decrease in sunlight in the water, the plants and fish are both affected. The plants on the floor rely on sunlight for growth and most fish eat these plants.

Ecosystems are highly delicate and even small changes can cause large amounts of damage.

In bodies of water such as rivers you can also ruin the shoreline. This is why most rivers are “no wake” zones. Constant impact from unnatural waves caused by boats can have devastating impact on the shoreline, docks, and other moored boats.

3 Ways To Lessen The Negative Effects Of Boats

1) Lessen the Noise

One major thing to be done is to lessen ocean and other water noise. If we can set “no noise” zones, this problem can go away quickly. Noise pollution is not one that lingers once it is gone.

After the noise pollution goes down, the damage should cease. The problem with this is getting the guidelines and regulations in place.

Noise pollution, while happening everywhere, happens most often in the ocean. It is caused most often by oil drilling, military vehicles and large ships.

With increasing technology we can reduce the noise created. With better technology we can reduce noise created and use less explosive methods.

With reduced explosions we can greatly increase the quality of life and the lifespan of marine animals.

2) Reduce Pollution

We can also stop pollution by mandating that certain toxic paints are not used in ship construction.

Boaters should monitor what cleaning equipment are used on their own vessels. If the proper research is done you can reduce the damage created by cleaning supplies. Just focus on the ones that won’t change the PH-balance or poison the water.

Before you go out, you should make sure that your boat has no oil or gas leaks or other chemicals spilling off your boat.

If this is caught before you head out on the water, you can fix the issue before it begins.

3) Be Aware of your Surroundings

While you may not be able to reduce animal collisions, you can take precautions in areas that you know have high concentrations of marine life.

Each boater will also need to take personal responsibility when it comes to their impact on the environment.

This includes not creating wake in a “no wake” zone, being aware of what chemicals you are washing into the ocean.

Make sure you are not personally polluting the water bodies that you are boating in.

We all know how easy it can be to lose something off the side of the boat. Even a plastic bag. This should be avoided at all costs. You should make sure that all loose articles are secured to avoid dropping things into the water.