NOAA report: Ocean noise impacts and policy guidelines

The humpback whale is one species studied to determine the impact anthropogenic noise has on marine mammals. ©Richard Fisher

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has produced a technical guidance document regarding the impacts that man-made ocean noise has on marine mammals. The document, first drafted two months ago and finalized on Aug. 4, describes how certain anthropogenic noise at various acoustic thresholds will impact marine mammal species. The document also summarizes how the agency can improve management and conservation of these species.

The acoustic thresholds reported in this document provide a basis for determining how different activities — such as military sonar training, freight shipping, or seismic surveys — may impact marine mammal health or behavior. For example, the document lists ranges within which anthropogenic noise may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss among different species. With this information available, agencies like NOAA can make better informed policy decisions when it comes to permitting or prohibiting certain human activity in compliance with legislation such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which protects marine mammals from harm or harassment.

Read more about the technical guidance on NOAA’s website.