[MARMAM] OpEd on Ocean Acoustics and Marine Mammals
brandon.southall at sea-inc.net
Fri Jan 20 13:11:10 PST 2012
Dr. Chris Clark and I would like to bring to your attention a recent
opinion piece that ran on the CNN website. Our purpose with this piece
was to make the points within the popular media about (1) the importance
of considering chronic/cumulative as well as acute aspects of
anthropogenic noise impacts on the marine environment, (2) more emphasis
on quieting technologies, and (3) the need for sustained and strategic
acoustic monitoring. You can find the article at
<http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/19/opinion/clark-southall-marine/> and the
full text is copied below.
Turn down the volume in the ocean
By *Christopher Clark* and *Brandon Southall*, Special to CNN
For many millions of years, the oceans have been filled with the sounds
of a geologically and biologically active planet: waves, rain,
earthquakes and the songs of life from snapping shrimp to great whales.
Before the age of engine-driven ships, the resounding voices of the
great whales could be heard across an ocean.
Today, in much of the Northern Hemisphere, commercial shipping clouds
the marine acoustic environment with fog banks of noise, and the near
continuous pounding of seismic airguns in search of fossil fuels beneath
the seafloor thunder throughout the waters. In the ocean's very quietest
moments, blue whales singing off the Grand Banks of Canada can sometimes
be heard more than 1,500 miles away off the coast of Puerto Rico. But on
most days, that distance is a mere 50 to 100 miles.
So why should we care?
Over the past decade, scientists who study noise in the ocean have tried
to understand how loud, man-made sounds disturb or injure whales and
other marine mammals, even driving some to strand on beaches and die.
It is time for us to focus on the more pernicious influence of chronic,
large-scale noise on marine life.
Whales, dolphins and seals use sounds to communicate, navigate, find
food and detect predators. The rising level of cumulative noise from
energy exploration, offshore development and commercial shipping is a
constant disruption on their social networks. For life in today's ocean,
the basic activities that we depend on for our lives on land are being
eroded by the increasing amount of human noise beneath the waves.
These stark realities are worrying. But emerging technologies for
quantifying and visualizing the effects of noise pollution can help
drive a paradigm shift in how we perceive, monitor, manage and mitigate
human sounds in the ocean. Ocean noise is a global problem, but the U.S.
should step up and lead the way.
First, we must extend fledgling efforts to fully comprehend the acoustic
footprint of our offshore and coastal activities. As a nation, we are
failing the oceans by lacking a sufficiently effective program for
listening to them.
The U.S. should develop and maintain dedicated undersea acoustic
monitoring networks as integral parts of ocean observing systems. This
would be lead by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and enabled through private and academic partnerships. Such a
plan has been developed; now it should be implemented.
Second, we should encourage and accelerate the development of
noise-reduction technologies. Thanks to proactive collaborations among
industries, scientists, environmentalists and government officials,
efforts are underway within the U.N.'s International Maritime
Organization to develop quieting technologies for the most pervasive
global noise source: large commercial ships. These and related
technologies for reducing noise in oil exploration and marine
construction should be standardized.
Finally, federal regulation on ocean noise must be changed. For decades,
regulators have focused entirely on the short-term effects of one action
at a time. A more holistic and biologically relevant risk assessment
system, centered on the concepts of ocean acoustic habitats and
ecosystems, is sorely needed. Emerging trends in marine spatial planning
are encouraging signs, as is NOAA's support of two groups that are
developing geospatial tools for mapping underwater noise and marine
mammal distributions in U.S. waters.
The loss of acoustic habitats for marine species that rely on sound to
live and prosper is increasing. Solutions are available. The question is
whether we humans value and will invest in a healthy ocean ecosystem
that supports life, and in doing so, sustain our own health and future.
Brandon L. Southall, Ph.D.
President, Senior Scientist, SEA, Inc.
Research Associate, University of California, Santa Cruz
9099 Soquel Drive, Suite 8, Aptos, CA 95003, USA
831.332.8744 (mobile); 831.661.5177 (office); 831.661.5178 (fax)
Brandon.Southall at sea-inc.net; www.sea-inc.net
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