Background

In September 2004, an Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST) Working Group was set up to investigate the effects of underwater sound on marine life. One of the first actions of the Working Group was the production of a progress report, Underwater Sound and Marine Life.

This report contained nine recommendations of the Working Group, one of which, Recommendation 9, called for ‘a UK forum be created at which a co-ordinated approach to underwater sound and its effects can be discussed across all sectors of industry, military, scientists, other sound producers, environmental Non-Government Organisations (NGO), regulators and ocean resource users’. Organisations and Government departments were invited to become members of this UK forum. In addition, a one-day conference, organised by IACMST and the Institute for Marine Engineering, Science & Technology, (IMarEST), was held in October 2006 at which the topic of anthropogenic noise and its impact on the marine environment was addressed.

The IACMST was disbanded in 2008 and was replaced by the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC), a steering committee consisting of government departments, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, environment agencies and research bodies involved in funding and providing marine science in the UK. The MSCC aims to identify opportunities for improved collaboration and co-ordination of scientific knowledge, resources and communication in the UK to support policy decisions and to drive forward the implementation of the UK Marine Science Strategy. It is answerable to a Ministerial Science Group and ultimately to Ministers. It was agreed that responsibility for the Underwater Sound Forum would migrate from the IACMST to the MSCC on the devolvement of the former, and the Forum remains one of the MSCC’s Working Groups.

In addition to the Forum, a Ministry of Defence/Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) Military Underwater Sound Stakeholders Forum was formed in 2009, which brokered closer cooperation between Underwater Sound Forum members and the MoD via meetings. Five such meetings were held until a decision was made in 2011 to combine the MSCC Underwater Sound Forum and the Military Underwater Sound Stakeholder Forum into one body.

The Underwater Sound Forum does occasionally assist with pertinent seminars and conferences, for example a one-day conference on ‘Assessing and managing the potential impact of marine piling noise within the evolving regulatory framework’ was organised by the Forum in 2010 and which was sponsored by The Crown Estate and IMarEST.

The Forum meets twice yearly where Members and invited guests showcase new research and updates are provided on standards, legislation etc. The Forum also acts as a channel for information sharing and best practice. Membership currently stands at 234 although this is anticipated to grow as the Forum begins to forge further ties with other organisations such as the MSCC’s Marine Industries Liaison Group (MILG).