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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Effects of motorboat noise on foraging behaviour in Eurasian perch and roach: a field experiment

Magnhagen, Carin; Johansson, Kajsa; Sigray, Peter


The negative impact of anthropogenic noise on marine animals is receiving increasing attention. In order to study the effect of motorboat noise on foraging behaviour in fish, we chose 2 species with different hearing abilities. The roach Rutilus rutilus has a better developed sense of hearing than the Eurasian perch Perca fluviatilis. The study took place in an inlet of the Bothnian Sea where boat traffic is almost absent. Groups of 6 fish were placed in field enclosures containing either one of the species or equal numbers of perch and roach. Half of each enclosure was covered with artificial vegetation. The fish were fed with pieces of saithe twice a day, both with and without the disturbance of an outboard motor. Sound pressure level and particle acceleration were measured for the motor, which was run at 2000 rpm. The trials were repeated for 5 d. Perch made fewer feeding attempts during noise exposure compared to controls in the single-species enclosures. As the experiment progressed, they gradually increased feeding and time spent in the open area, both with and without noise, indicating habituation. Habitat utilization was affected by the interaction of noise exposure and day. Roach responded to noise exposure with fewer feeding attempts, higher latency to enter the open area, and longer time spent in the vegetation compared to the controls without noise. Roach behaviour changed with time only when housed together with perch. This study, using authentic sound in a natural habitat, shows that noise exposure may affect the feeding behaviour of fish, that the response is species-specific, and that habituation and the presence of other species may modify the effects.


Anthropogenic noise; Feeding activity; Field enclosures; Perca fluviatilis; Rutilus rutilus; Sound disturbance

Published in

Marine Ecology Progress Series
2017, Volume: 564, pages: 115-125
Publisher: Inter Research