NOAA calls for workshops on ocean noise mitigation

A letter from NOAA director Dr. Jane Lubchenco to Whitehouse CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley calls for a deeper look into mitigations on the impacts of ocean noise on marine life.

While the letter focuses on understanding the problems and controversies around the US Navy’s use of Mid Frequency sonar, it also alludes to clearing up some of the uncertainties around the impacts of other noises sources such as oil and gas surveys, vessel traffic, and civil engineering noise.

I believe that the letter could really be a watershed in the cooperation between the Navy and other civilian agencies like NOAA, the Minerals Management Service, and Environmental NGOs.

It asks for wildlife surveys to identify vulnerable areas – honing in on Dr. Lubchenco’s “Marine Spatial Planning” management paradigm, as well as for two workshops to determine “ocean noise budgets,” and for an evaluation of the “hot spots” and models used to establish mitigation practices.

Earlier in this decade there were a set of noise impact workshops spearheaded by the Marine Mammal Commission. These were unsuccessful due to the high level of uncertainties about the impact mechanisms, but also because of what became a vitriolic divisiveness amongst the participants.

I have high hopes that given the advances in our understanding about marine bio-acoustics – as well as how these workshops are being framed, that there will be some important progress made through this initiative.

We can thank NOAA director Jane Lubchenco for the wisdom to set this process in motion, and we can also thank Michael Jasny and Joel Reynolds of NRDC for greasing the wheels and helping it along.