Ocean noise popping up in the press

It is with a strange ambivalence that I am seeing quite a lot of headlines about ocean noise issues popping up in the popular press. Just some of the issues that have come across my desk in the last few weeks are the Navy ignoring the science on sonar impacts, shipping noise interfering with Orca communication, mapping sonar causing a mass stranding in Madagascar, and Atlantic coast seismic surveys were postponed.

Multiple acoustic technologies map the seafloor and below. Illus: Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc.

Multiple acoustic technologies map the seafloor and below. Illus: Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc.

When I hear about these various events my impulse is to contextualize them and bring them up to OCR subscribers. But the truth of the matter is that while acoustical events are increasing due to the expansion of acoustic technologies into the sea, public awareness and concern is also increasing, driving this once-arcane topic further up the page into the headlines. One of the likely consequences of this movement is that public concern will drive policy on the issue; and this is a good thing.

My quandary is that I’ve made a practice of synthesizing and publishing critiques on marine bio-acoustic events to let you know what is afoot in the field. But with the increased public awareness and coincident press coverage this critiquing practice could take on the scale of a full time job. Meanwhile new frontiers and technologies are invading the ocean that need to be evaluated, and in many cases acted upon – from acoustical tags and multi-nodal acoustical communication networks to noise generated by offshore energy projects – from wind farms to seafloor petroleum operations.

As OCR moves into our new offices we’ll also be slightly shifting how we interact with the public. I am grateful that the task of shedding light on ocean noise events is increasingly being taken up by the press. This will allow us to dig deeper into the emerging technologies and concerns – sharing these with you, our subscribers; keeping you informed on what is now the esoteric and arcane – with the objective of bringing these issues up on the public sonar and informing policy and practice.

Happy Solstice – and all of the respective ceremonies and celebrations of light and warmth that it brings out of our various world cultures and traditions.