Seismic shootings and offshore pile-driving are regularly performed, emitting significant amounts of noise that may negatively affect fish behaviour. The pulse repetition interval (PRI) of these impulsive sounds may vary considerably and influence the behavioural impact and recovery. Here, we tested the effect of four PRIs (0.5–4.0 s) on European seabass swimming patterns in an outdoor basin. At the onset of the sound exposures, the fish swam faster and dived deeper in tighter shoals. PRI affected the immediate and delayed behavioural changes but not the recovery time. Our study highlights that (1) the behavioural changes of captive European seabass were consistent with previous indoor and outdoor studies; (2) PRI could influence behavioural impact differentially, which may have management implications; (3) some acoustic metrics, e.g. SELcum, may have limited predictive power to assess the strength of behavioural impacts of noise. Noise impact assessments need to consider the contribution of sound temporal structure.
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