I’d never before pondered that fish and noise might—even indirectly—have anything to do with each other. Little did I know! Sure, fish do tend to be quiet, but the process of harvesting them most assuredly does not.
With high casualty, accident, and injury rates, fish harvesting ranks as one of the world’s most dangerous industries. Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) literature from coastal communities not only confirms this; it also highlights noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a primary health hazard among fish harvesters. What these regulatory bodies haven’t addressed is the noise-induced fatigue caused by insufficiently sound-attenuated crew quarters. Cumulative health effects of noise exposure over time also include cardiovascular stress, which can lead to high blood pressure and dizziness.
While working on a staff profile recently, I learned about BAP Acoustics consultant Giorgio Burella‘s groundbreaking PhD work at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, widely recognized for their Department of Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering. Giorgio Burella and Lorenzo Moro, “Design solutions to mitigate high noise levels on small fishing vessels”, Applied Acoustics, Volume 172, 2021, DOI—the culmination of Giorgio’s (and others’) research—holds the promise implied in its title.
Many international studies have shown that hazardously loud (> 85 dBA) noises—usually emitting from propulsive engines and auxiliary machinery—can cause hearing loss by virtue of their excessive volume and length of exposure time. One of several factors revealing the Memorial University studies as unique is that the team’s research was the first to address noise-induced fatigue and the conditions that would put those working aboard a small-scale fishing vessel at risk. In terms of habitability, sleeping quarters can pose a particularly insidious risk.
According to WorkSafe BC, most hearing-related OH&S information Is based on 8-hour workdays. Unsurprisingly, fish harvesters’ “work days” tend to exceed 8 hours. The provincial agency further maintains that sleeping quarters unattenuated to noise below 55 dBA don’t provide an occupant’s ears with enough rest time during sleep to recover from earlier, louder exposure.
Wearing earplugs while sleeping can reduce noise levels to below 40 dBA.