The WWF-Natural Marine Reserve of Miramare (Trieste, Italy) is located in a major industrial and vacation area in the Adriatic Sea. Consequently, noise emanating from boating and shipping is an inevitable factor for local fishes. This study investigates the effects of ambient and ship noise on representatives of three vocal fish families with different hearing abilities. Ambient and ship noise were recorded, their sound pressure levels measured and played back in the lab. Auditory sensitivity was determined in Chromis chromis, Sciaena umbra and Gobius cruentatus, utilizing the auditory evoked potential recording technique. Compared to lab conditions, hearing thresholds determined during ambient noise playbacks were barely masked. Contrary, the noise emanating from a cabin-cruiser substantially reduced auditory sensitivity relative to thresholds in ambient noise. This masking effect was most pronounced in the frequency range where acoustic communication takes place. Boat noise potentially affects acoustic communication in fishes inhabiting the reserve.