Mapping Cetaceans and Sound

Thanks to a number of folks in this august group we were sent a substantial article from Monday’s NY Times about ocean noise pollution. The initiating work discussed in the article is a NOAA sponsored meta-data framework on mapping marine mammal densities and mapping ocean noise to inform ocean policy and practice. These maps and data will help scientists and regulators plan and design marine temporal-spatial operations such as shipping channels, seismic surveys, underwater communications, and other human uses of the sea so as to decrease noise impacts on marine mammals.

Stakeholders and industry professionals were introduced to this program at a symposium that I had an opportunity to attend in Washington DC in May of this year, where this program was one of many discussed.

Despite the attention (and good intentions) noise abatement in the ocean will not occur overnight. For example: Shipping noise is one of the more ubiquitous noises in the sea (and a focus of the NOAA work). And while quieting technologies are being implemented in new vessels, ships using older technology still have a service life of decades.

Stellwagen Banks Passive Acoustic Monitoring. Illus: NOAA/Cornell

Stellwagen Banks Passive Acoustic Monitoring. Illus: NOAA/Cornell

But these mapping tools will prove very helpful; providing a place where physical oceanographers, marine biologists, and regulators can come together, compare notes, and determine how human use of the ocean can at least accommodate for the non-human use of the same soundscape.

We still have a long way to go, but it is really encouraging to know that there is institutional support of some of the best minds in the field in finding ways to mitigate impacts of the ocean’s most recent and noisiest neighbors.