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AEI annual report, Ocean Noise 2009 is now available

News, Ocean, Science, Seismic Surveys, Shipping, Sonar Add comments

The Acoustic Ecology Institute has published Ocean Noise 2009, the fourth in its annual series of reports reviewing new research and regulatory developments in ocean noise. AEI’s annual recaps are widely anticipated and circulated among ocean noise scientists and regulators, as well as within NGO and journalist communities.

The report can be viewed or downloaded as a 45-page PDF, or viewed in the SlideShare plug-in, below.

This year’s report includes coverage of two ongoing issues, seismic surveys and Naval active sonars, with particular focus on the Navy’s continuing roll-out of Environmental Impact Statements for its offshore training ranges and the targeting of Columbia University’s seismic research vessel by environmental activists.

This year’s report introduces a new feature that will be of special interest to journalists: AEI Resource Collections on two topics that will be central to ocean acoustics policy and research in the coming years.

More details below the fold

The first Resource Collection focuses on shipping noise; over the past five years, regulators and the shipping industry have taken important steps toward addressing the fact that large ships introduce more sound energy into the ocean than any other human activity. In 2009, the International Maritime Organization began working toward instituting voluntary ship quieting measures, with the goal of actually reversing a five-decades-long trend of increasing background noise in the oceans.

The second introduces the exciting new field of passive acoustic monitoring, with brief descriptions of many new recording platforms being used in the seas, including “pop- up” recorders and undersea gliders that can listen for months at a time, “acoustic tags” attached to whales to record their calls and human noise around them while also tracking their dive patterns, and elaborate new Ocean Observatories permanently installed on the seafloor.

Here are the Introduction and Table of Contents of the report:


2009 was a relatively calm year in the world of ocean noise, as compared to the past couple of years, which saw legal fireworks culminating in a Supreme Court sonar ruling, a series of comprehensive reports from agencies in the US and EU, and a noticeable increase in marine scientists urging more caution in our use of noise in the sea. See AEI’s previous annual reports for more on all that excitement; this year’s recap focuses more on emerging themes that reflect the ongoing maturation of the field of ocean acoustics, as agencies, NGOs, and major ocean “noise-makers” focus more on solutions than on arguments.

Even as the dramatic but relatively rare sonar-related strandings occupied public and legal center-stage over the past few years, scientists and agency staff, as well as many NGOs, have been putting most of their attention on the far more widespread effects of chronic and moderate anthropogenic (human- created) noise. Much of the environmental concern about the current round of Navy sonar EISs focuses not on potential strandings and deaths of a few animals, but on properly assessing the effects of these exercises of thousands of animals that will be close enough to hear and change their behavior in response to sonar signals. Likewise, nearly all the concerns about seismic surveys have settled down to questions about behavioral responses of populations exposed to surveys noise on a regular basis, or during biologically important times of year.

The most widespread source of chronic ocean noise is clearly global shipping. Three years ago, the possible biological effects of shipping noise were just beginning to appear on the radar of regulators and the shipping industry; in 2009, the world’s primary forum for agreements on shipping standards, the International Maritime Organization, began formally addressing the question. A series of international workshops have opened up lines of inquiry and dialogue that seem to hold real promise of actually reversing the steady rise in the ocean’s background ambient noise that has accompanied increases in global shipping since the 1960s.

The most exciting development in 2009, though, took place outside the regulatory arena. After several years of preliminary research and prototype testing, passive acoustic monitoring has come of age. A high-profile project in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary continues to lead the way, generating ground-breaking visualizations of the acoustic ecologies of ships and whales outside Boston harbor, while a steady stream of new research techniques and technologies have generated ever-cheaper platforms for short and long-term listening at sea. The result of all this will be a vast increase in our ability to know where human sounds are most problematic, and what areas are most important to marine species.

This AEI Spotlight Report will get you up to speed on each of these important topics, and look ahead at the likely themes of 2010’s research, regulatory, and legal developments in the realm of ocean noise.


2  Introduction

4  Naval active sonars
Navy continues to roll out EISs for training ranges
New instrumented range off Florida faces challenges

12  Seismic surveys
Academic surveys trigger oversized outrage
Oil and gas industry surveys continue unfettered; increasing environmental focus from industry

18  Shipping noise
AEI Resource Collection: Shipping noise symposia and reports, 2005-2009

26  The revolution in passive acoustic monitoring
New research opportunities, new questions that can be asked
AEI Resource Collection: Platforms for remote recording

35  Research briefs, 2009

42  What to keep an eye (ear) on in 2010

45  About the Acoustic Ecology Institute

Read or Download the 45-page pdf: AEI Spotlight Report: Ocean Noise 2009

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