How do we approach underwater noise?

As human activities at sea are multiplying, with them comes an increase in noise from these activities, which in turn translates into an overall increase in underwater radiated noise (UNR). This WG 6 focuses on understanding all sources of noise at sea that have or may have an adverse impact on the marine environment, including marine organisms and their habitat and the development of science in assessing this impact to inform the implementation of international regulations on the protection and preservation of the marine environment and inform adequate marine policy interventions in response.

An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that underwater noise emitted from commercial vessels is a stressor for marine species and ecosystems, including various marine mammals, fish and invertebrates, and notes that the noise emitted by commercial ships is higher in energy than recreational vessels and is generally below 1, 000 Hertz (or 1 kHz) which is the same broadband low-frequency ranges identified as critically important for many whales and fish species.

Graph 1. Impact of anthropogenic underwater noise on marine macro-fauna

Based on an Infographic published by the French Government with support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Office Français de la Biodiversité (OFB) and the Armaterus de France. Available here. 

ACOPS Activities

ACOPS participates actively the on-going work of the IMO, OSPAR and the Arctic Council on underwater noise (commonly referred to as underwater radiated noise or URN). In two recent commenting papers submitted to the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC)  and the sub-committee on Ship-Design and Construction (SDC), we highlighted the on-going scientific, policy and legal developments on the impact of underwater noise on the marine environment in other intergovernmental  bodies that ought to be taken into account by the IMO to guide its revision of the existing guidance on the reduction of underwater noise from shipping and the adoption of new response measures. These other processes include ACCOBAMS, the Arctic Council, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the International Seabed Authority, the International Whaling Commission, OSPAR and the United Nations General Assembly.