The issue of underwater noise as a form of pollution is gaining increasing notice with the general public, scientists and decision makers. Two new papers released in the past few weeks have focused on the issue of noise pollution and the use of seismic surveys (used in exploration for oil and gas reserves) which involves using loud sound pulses fired from compressed air guns to explore below the sea bed.

The first paper, written by an international group of expert scientists, concerns the potential for acute, chronic and cumulative impacts of exposure to ocean noise on marine mammal populations. An interesting interview with some of the authors can be found here and the full paper is here.

The second paper focuses entirely on the Joint Nature Conservation Commission (JNCC) guidance on mitigating the impact of seismic surveys on marine mammals. These guidelines typically form the basis for how mitigation requirements are determined – across different marine industries (see here for the guidance documents for seismic surveys, explosives and pile driving).

Both papers make interesting sets of recommendations for how noise pollution can be monitored and better regulated.

With new technology, like acoustic deterrent devices (which have potential for mitigation around pile-driving) and other available approaches of detecting marine mammals, there is scope for improvement in the quality of monitoring and mitigation around noisy activities in general.

Furthermore there are new tools to assess how even ‘minor’ exposures to noisy activities can cause impacts due to their chronic or cumulative nature.


Full citations for the papers are:

Douglas P Nowacek, Christopher W Clark, David Mann, Patrick JO Miller, Howard C Rosenbaum, Jay S Golden, Michael Jasny, James Kraska, and Brandon L Southall 2015. Marine seismic surveys and ocean noise: time for coordinated and prudent planning.Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 378–386.

Wright, A.J., Cosentino, A.M., JNCC guidelines for minimising the risk of injury and disturbance to marine mammals from seismic surveys: We can do better, Marine Pollution Bulletin (2015),