To: Signatories on the Petition to the UN and its Member States
on Underwater Noise Pollution
From: Marsha Green, Ocean Mammal Institute and Sierra Club
Sigrid Lueber, Ocean Care and European Coalition for Silent Oceans
Andrew Wetzler, Natural Resources Defense Council
Re: Update on the Campaign to Reduce Ocean Noise Pollution:
Activities During the U.N. Fifth Informal Consultative Process on
Oceans and the Law of the Sea
A delegation of representatives from several of the organizations working on the Underwater Ocean Noise issue attended the Fifth Informal Consultative Process on the UN Convention on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations in New York, June 7-11, 2004. The conference is an annual process to review issues and indicate emerging concerns regarding oceans, and it reports directly to the U.N. General Assembly that meets starting in September. We attended the meeting in order to increase awareness among governments and present the petition your organization signed asking for the development of international standards regulating noise pollution in the world’s oceans.
On the opening day of the session, June 7, Dr. Green, Sigrid Lueber and Andrew Wetzler presented a Side Event to the government, NGO and intergovernmental organization delegates: “Intense Human-produced Underwater Noise and Its Impact on Marine Life”. The session provided an overview of the science, the legal arguments, and the political activities in favor of the position of placing Ocean Noise under intergovernmental regulation. The event was well attended by delegates from diverse countries including China, Japan and Australia; by scientists from IUCN, the University of Quebec and Taiwan and by a representative of the UN/DOALOS.
Throughout the week, we met privately with and discussed the growing problem of underwater noise pollution with the U.N. Secretariat and delegates from a wide range of governments. We emphasized that the problem has been recognized and addressed by several international institutions including the IWC, the IMO, ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS. We also mentioned evidence concerning possible effects on the world’s fisheries and, therefore, potentially significant economic impacts on a large number of nations.
By week’s close, we had succeeded at speaking directly with twenty-nine governments and had gained some surprisingly strong indications of support or interest. Indeed, in the last hours of the conference, we were told that the issue might be actively raised by several national delegations that were in contact with the meeting’s co-chairs. [This would have been rather unusual, considering the months or years of preparation that are typically required to bring issues to governments and allow them to discuss and reach positions in their capitals, prior to sending their delegations to the U.N.]
As the meeting proceeded, however, it became involved in extended controversy regarding other issues on its agenda, and there was little time for discussion of ocean noise pollution. We realized the issue would most likely receive only minor notice this year. We also became very aware of how important it is at the U.N. level to gain support from a broad range of governments – including those of developing countries – in order to gain the consensus agreement that is required.
Considering how much interest the issue had received in only a few days of talking to governments, we therefore decided that it would be most effective to continue to build the campaign and bring it back to the U.N. in 2005. By that time, we would hope to have more organizations signed onto the petition, with wider geographic support. This also will give us more time to set up a strategy to reach the public and the press. Consequently, our efforts to raise awareness and obtain the support, especially of developing nations, will continue throughout the coming year in preparation for next year’s meeting.
For any organizations that would like to post information about this ongoing process at the UN on their website, we would be happy to provide text. Thank you all for your continuing support in this campaign to protect marine life from underwater noise pollution. We will keep you informed of new developments.
In addition to the UN meeting, Marsha and Sigrid gave a presentation on “Underwater Noise Pollution” at the American Museum of Natural History on June 5, 2004 as part of a program at the museum on UNEP World Environment Day. An award winning documentary showing the effects of high intensity active sonar on marine mammals that was presented at the program is available to nonprofit organizations in DVD of VHS format at cost.