OMI Works Internationally to Protect Whales and Dolphins from Underwater Noise Pollution
Since 1986 OMI has been doing research on the impact of human marine activities on whales and dolphins. When appropriate we use the data to help state and federal agencies develop guidelines to protect marine mammals.
We have found that the behavior of humpback whales is significantly changed by the engine noise of approaching boats. This research on engine noise prompted us to focus our conservation efforts on the issue of underwater noise pollution.
We first started to work on the underwater noise issue in the mid 1990’s when a controversy escalated in Hawaii about the installation of an intense noise source that was part of a project called ATOC (Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate). Then in 1997 the Navy began conducting tests of LFAS (Low Frequency Active Sonar) an even more intense noise source, off the California coast. When we learned that similar tests were scheduled in Hawaiian waters in 1998 we tried to get a court restraining order to stop the tests. Animal Welfare Institute, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace Hawaii, and Earthtrust later joined our action. Since this lawsuit in 1998 through 2001 we focused our efforts on trying to stop deployment of LFAS and other high intensity sonars by the U.S. Navy. You can read more about our work in this area at LFAS Chronology.
However, underwater noise pollution is an international issue since acoustic energy does not recognize national boundaries. Therefore, since 2002 we have refocused our efforts on educating and working with key international organizations including the European Parliament, the United Nations and NATO on mitigating the impacts of intense underwater noise on marine life.
To enable you to see exactly what we have accomplished so far and what we are currently working on in the international arena, we have provided the breakout below:
May – Dr. Green travels to Japan to attend a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to educate commissioners about effects of LFAS and lobby for a statement about LFAS from the Scientific Committee.
June – OMI arranges initial visit of Dr. Green, Dr. Linda Weilgart and Sue Arnold to meet members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels to inform them of the dangers of underwater noise pollution.
- As a result of this visit a discussion of High Intensity Active Sonars occurs during the January 2003 plenary session of Parliament and 64 members of Parliament send a question to the European Commission inquiring about what they were going to do about the deployment of LFAS.
July – Dr. Green speaks on LFAS at a Whale Zone Symposium sponsored by ASMS (Swiss Marine Mammal Protection Group) in Zurich, Switzerland.
- Dr. Green’s Zurich address
- Dr. Green suggests forming the European Coalition for Silent Oceans.
- In September 2002, ASMS invites European environmental organizations to join the Coalition to press for a moratorium on the use of High Intensity Active Sonars.
- Dr. Green serves as scientific advisor to the European Coalition.
- * As of October 2004, the European Coalition for Silent Oceans has 52 member organizations, a website ( http://www.asms-swiss.org/lfas/ ), a petition against High Intensity Active Sonar, and a legal opinion about the Use of LFA Sonar under International Law.
NOTE: The petition and legal opinion are in .pdf format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
Go to http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html for a free download of Acrobat Reader software.
October – Dr. Green serves as scientific advisor to the European Federation of Green Parties in drafting a resolution opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars. The resolution passes at the annual meeting of the Federation in November 2002: http://www.europeangreens.org/info/resolutions/brussels2.html
May and June – Dr. Green and Michael Jasny (NRDC) draft a petition opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars.
- The petition requests the European Union to adopt a moratorium on the deployment of LFAS until a global assessment of its environmental impacts can be prepared and to create a Multinational Task Force to develop international agreements regulating noise levels in the ocean. Read the petition
- Mark Palmer of Earth Island Institute helps circulate the petition, which is signed by 67 environmental organizations in the U.S. and Canada as well as the member organizations of the European Coalition for Silent Oceans.
- Organizations signing the petition represent a total membership of 8.3 million people on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Dr. Green delivers the petition to the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament. See Picture
June – During a second visit to Parliament Dr. Green works with the Parliament’s Environment Committee requesting them to consider drafting a resolution on high intensity active sonars.
June – Dr. Green speaks on High Intensity Active Sonars in Berlin, at an interactive event aimed at raising awareness of the threats posed by noise pollution and giving people an opportunity to enter the sound filled world of whales and dolphins. Hosted by Swiss Marine Mammal Protection (ASMS), The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), and Liquid Sound, the event included presentations by scientists and artists. This talk took place on the eve of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission.
October – Dr. Green and Sigrid Lueber (ASMS) organize a delegation of scientists, Members of the European Parliament and environmentalists to meet with and educate representatives of NATO. Additionally, they delivered 2 petitions opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars by NATO member states. See historic pictures!
- The petitions represent 8.3 million people in North America and Europe
- The meeting is covered by BBC International TV.
- NATO Press Release which summarizes the NATO meeting.
June – Dr. Green attends the Fifth Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations in New York. The conference is an annual process to review issues and indicate emerging concerns regarding oceans and reports directly to the UN General Assembly. Dr. Green attended the meeting in order to increase awareness among governments about intense underwater noise pollution.
- Dr. Green, Sigrid Leuber and Andrew Wetzler gave a presentation to delegates on “Intense Human-Produced Underwater Noise and Its Impact on Marine Life”. They discussed the scientific, legal and political issues involved.
- Dr. Green met privately with and discussed the growing problem of underwater noise pollution with the UN Secretariat and delegates from twenty-nine governments.
- Read the trip specifics
July – Dr. Green travels to Sorrento Italy to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission and participate in the formation of an International Ocean Noise Coalition- a group of Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) around the globe working to stop underwater noise pollution.
- OMI is currently working with NGO’s in Canada, Chili, Taiwan, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and Switzerland to build the international coalition.
- Along with Earth Island Institute and Seaflow we have launched a website www.oceannoisecoalition.org to educate and support the international coalition.
September – Dr. Green traveled to London to participate in an International Policy Workshop on sound and marine mammals.
- Dr. Green is a member of the Congressionally mandated Federal Advisory Committee sponsoring the workshop in order to raise international awareness and develop solutions to the problem of human produced underwater noise pollution. More information about this committee is available here: Marine Mammal Commission’s Sound Program
- She was invited to do a poster presentation on her international efforts to raise awareness about underwater noise pollution in international fora. View all the poster abstracts: http://www.mmc.gov/sound/internationalwrkshp/internationalwrkshp.html
- Dr. Green’s Poster Presentation (NOTE: This is a 16 MB PDF file)
October -The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the Member States of the European Union to adopt geographic restrictions on the use of high intensity naval sonars in waters under their jurisdiction and establish a Multinational Task Force to develop international agreements regulating noise levels in the world’s oceans.
- ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area) adopted Resolution 2.16, recognizing manmade ocean noise as a pollutant that can have adverse impacts on marine life ranging from disturbance, to injury and death. This resolution called on member states to avoid any use of man-made noise in habitats of vulnerable species and in areas where marine mammals or endangered species may be concentrated, to intensify national and international research on the issue, to develop alternative technologies and to require the use of best available control technologies.
- IUCN (World Conservation Union) adopted a resolution recognizing noise as a form of pollution and calling on member governments to apply the precautionary principle in assessing the impacts of noise generated by commercial, military and industrial activities. The resolution also entreated governments to avoid the use of powerful noise sources in habitats of vulnerable species, and in areas where marine mammals or endangered species may be concentrated, and to work through the UN “to develop mechanisms for the control of undersea noise.”
The International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC) is formed. This coalition is represented in three continents by the European Coalition for Silent Oceans (ECSO) headed by Sigrid Luber, the North American Ocean Noise Coalition (NAONC) headed by Dr. Marsha Green and the Latin American Ocean Noise Coalition (LAONC), headed by Elsa Cabrera.
The IONC is a partnership of over 140 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world. It was created to address the need for a global approach on educating and combating human-generated ocean noise. http://www.oceannoisecoalition.org
June – Dr. Green organized and chaired the UN working group (part of the International Ocean Noise Coalition) which attended UNICPOLOS-6. This working group had representatives from NRDC, IFAW, AWI, Seaflow, Ocean Care, Centro de Conservacion Cetacea and COMARINO. The goal of attending this meeting was to educate delegates on the issue of Ocean Noise Pollution and its impact on marine life in addition to having the issue referred to the UN General Assembly for further consideration in the fall of 2005.
- Dr. Green and Dr. Alaniz of COMARINO, representing the International Ocean Noise Coalition read a position statement on Ocean Noise during the meeting, and the working group distributed educational materials on the impact of ocean noise and held a wine and cheese reception for delegates to answer their questions.
- The group submitted a petition on Ocean Noise signed by over 130 environmental and animal welfare organizations representing memberships of over 15 million people globally.
- At the reception Dr. Linda Weilgart gave a presentation: “How Ocean Noise Can Effect Marine Animals” (.pdf file)
- Elsa Cabrera gave a presentation: “Ocean Noise – Adverse Impacts on Fish and Fisheries” (.pdf file)
- The working group held a press conference resulting in global coverage of the ocean noise issue. It was covered in over 14 newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts. Reuters: June 8th – Coalition Urges UN Curbs on Harmful Ocean Sounds, BBC and New York Daily News: June 10th – Direct Report from Coalition UN News Conference
- Read the trip specifics here (.pdf file).
- The group was successful in having ocean noise referred to the General Assembly.
July – In his 2005 report to the General Assembly on Oceans and the Law of the Sea the Secretary -General of the United Nations noted the following, “The sixth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process has proposed that the General Assembly should request further study and consideration of the effects of ocean noise on marine living resources.”
The Secretary-General included a detailed paragraph on anthropogenic underwater noise in his 2005 report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and referred to ocean noise a total of 16 times in this report which can be read at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/general_assembly/general_assembly_reports.htm
November – United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution encouraging consideration of the impact of ocean noise on living marine resources. http://awionline.org/whales/Noise/IONC/UN_OLOS_ Res_Nov_2005.htm
February – Dr. Marsha Green and Susan Millward of AWI attend a UN workshop where the issue of ocean noise was addressed. The workshop, “Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to Study Issues Related to the Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biological Diversity beyond areas of National Jurisdiction” addressed the management of marine resources on the high seas (beyond the 200 mile range from land). During this workshop ocean noise was recognized as a problem.
February – In 2003, Congress, through the Omnibus Appropriations Act directed the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) to form a committee to “share findings, survey acoustic threats to marine mammals, and develop means of reducing those threats while maintaining the oceans as a global highway of international commerce.” This committee was charged with developing recommendations to the Commission for inclusion in its report to Congress.
- The 28 member committee, titled the Advisory Committee on Acoustic Impacts on Marine Mammals, met throughout a 2 year timeframe. Listing of committee members and its charter can be read at http://www.mmc.gov/sound/committee/committee.html
- The Committee members were unable to reach a consensus on their report to the Commission. Therefore, committee members agreed to submit individual and group statements which would be attached to the Commission summary and submitted to Congress. The Advisory Committee on Acoustic Impacts on Marine Mammals Report to the Marine Mammal Commission is now available at http://www.mmc.gov/
- Dr. Marsha Green was a member of the group that submitted the Environmental Caucus Statement (Statement C). Their statement can be read at http://www.mmc.gov/
April – Dr. Marsha Green is appointed to the ACCOBAMS working group. This group is responsible for assisting in the development of noise regulations for the protection of marine life for the Mediterranean, Black Sea and contiguous Atlantic areas.
OMI is committed to protecting our oceans and all marine life. We believe that International cooperation is the key to global success on this important issue, and we need your help to continue our work. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to support this critical international work.OMI is committed to protecting our oceans and all marine life. We believe that International cooperation is the key to global success on this important issue, and we need your help to continue our work. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to support this critical international work.