GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Port of Gulfport will spend thousands of dollars on a "bubble curtain" device, designed to dampen sound waves from a pile-driving project.
National Marine Fisheries Service requires mitigation because the underwater sounds could be harmful to fish or dolphins.
The federal requirement came as quite a surprise to several of the port commissioners, but the impact of underwater noise is a significant issue for marine scientists.
Construction sounds from the port not only resonate along the nearby Coast, they sometimes travel underwater into the adjoining Mississippi Sound.
"We have one of the largest dolphin populations in the United States that inhabits the Mississippi Sound. Plus, it's also a nursing ground for these animals," said Institute for Marine Mammal Studies director, Dr. Moby Solangi.
Dolphins rely on sound and echoes for their survival.
"They locate their fish through sound, they locate their mates through sound, they find their habitat through sound. If they become deaf, they're unable to survive," Solangi said.
Any man-made sounds on or near the water, could potentially have an impact on dolphins or other marine life.
"There's a lot of factors that can affect sound underwater such as temperature, salinity, the substrate at the bottom of the water column. There's a lot of things that can intervene with the sounds," said research scientist, Dr. Mystera Samuelson.
NOAA's recent 150-page report on ocean noise says that man's acoustic footprint in the oceans began less than 200 years ago with the advent of the industrial age. However, noise has increased dramatically in recent decades to include noise from things like shipping, sonar, seismic guns for oil and gas exploration, dredging, drilling and pile driving.
"It already has been an issue for marine scientists for a very long time. I think it's just getting to the point where you're hearing more and more about it because it has been an issue for a long time and scientists have been working to make it part of marine mammal management for quite some time. So now it's just really picking up," said Dr. Samuelson.