Oct 2020

Boats herd whales ahead of military exercise

The BBC have reported on a number of boats being used to herd northern bottlenose whales from Gare Loch (Argyll) in preparation for Europe's largest military exercise (Joint Warrior). The military exercise is due to begin on Saturday, with an operation to move the whales taking place Thursday morning over the concern that sonar used by warships could impact and distress the whales. 

The full report can be found here.

May 2020

Discovery of Sound in the Sea Announcement

The Discovery of Sound in Sea (DOSITS) have annoucned a number of underwater acoustic webinars coming up this year:

  • Tuesday 2nd June at 12pm EDT: Fundamentals of Underwater Sound

  • Thursday 23rd July at 12pm EDT: Review of NMFS Regulatory Approach to Underwater Noise

  • September (date TBC): Regulatory Approach to Underwater Noise, U.S. Approach Compared to that of the E.U. and Other Locations

  • Thursday 22nd October at 12pm EDT: How is Passive Acoustics Data Used to Inform the Decision-Making Process?

Please visit the DOSITS webinar website for more information and to register for the webinars. 

Apr 2019

The Quest for Quieter Seas

Article by Nicola Jones, a freelance journalist based in Pemberton, British Columbia.  The article can be found in Nature, Vol. 568, 11 April 2019, pp 158 - 161

An overview of fish bioacoustics and the impacts of anthropogenic sounds on fishes

Paper by Arthur N Popper and Anthony D Hawkins

Fishes use a variety of sensory systems to learn about their environments and to communicate.  Of the various senses, hearing plays a particularly important role for fishes in providing information, often from great distances, from all round these animals. This information is in all three spatial dimensions, often overcoming the limitations of other senses such as vision, touch, taste and smell.  Sound is used for communication between fishes, thus anything that interferes with the ability of a fish to detect and respond to biologically relevant sounds can decrease survival and fitness of individuals and populations.  The intent of this paper is to review the potential effects of anthropogenic sounds upon fishes, and the most complete summary of the effects of anthropogenic noise on fishes to date. 

Full article: Journal of Fish Biology, Vol. 94, issue 3 2019


Jan 2019

Forum member Seiche is official partner for ocean cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup announces Seiche Water Technology Group with AutoNaut as its Official Partner for Environmental Mitigation Technologies.

Today, SWTG confirms it will be providing an AutoNaut unmanned surface vessel and a suite of mitigation technologies to monitor and help ensure the protection of marine-life during the first-ever deployment of an ocean clean-up system by the Dutch non-profit The Ocean Cleanup. Seiche systems for passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) will be deployed to detect and track whales and dolphins. Hydrophones deployed via PAM buoys will be installed and operated by Seiche personnel. Assistance will also be provided by SWTG to ensure that the highest environmental standards are met throughout.

The Ocean Cleanup develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. A full-scale deployment of the TOC systems is estimated to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. The first cleanup system is set to be deployed mid 2018.

Hearing Tests on Wild Whales

Scientists published the first hearing tests on a wild population of healthy marine mammals. The tests on beluga whales in Bristol Bay, AK, revealed that the whales have sensitive hearing abilities and the number of animals that experienced extensive hearing losses was far less than what scientists had anticipated.

The latter findings contrasted with expectations from previous studies of humans and bottlenose dolphins, which showed more hearing loss as they aged, says Aran Mooney, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of two new studies on beluga whales. “But unlike the wild beluga population, the dolphins that were studied lived in a very noisy environment, as most humans do.”

At a time when noise in the ocean is increasing from human activities, such as oil and gas exploration and ship traffic, understanding the natural hearing abilities of whales and other endangered marine mammals is crucial to assessing potential noise impacts on animals and to management efforts to mitigate sound-induced hearing loss.

In the two related studies, WHOI researchers and their colleagues measured the hearing sensitivity of 26 wild belugas and then compared the audiograms to acoustic measurements made within their summer habitat in Bristol Bay to study how natural soundscapes—all sounds within their environment—may influence hearing sensitivity. The soundscape also reveals sound clues that the belugas may use to navigate. The first study was published May 8, 2018, in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Results from the soundscape study were published June 20, 2018, in the Journal of Ecoacoustics.

Integrated modelling of Atlantic mackerel distribution patterns and movements: A template for dynamic impact assessments

Modelling is important for impact assessments of anthropogenic pressures on wildlife. Models are particularly useful when dealing with complex dynamic systems (as pelagic ecosystems) where data are limited and if various ‘what if’ scenarios should be tested. The aim of this study was to produce and implement an integrated modelling approach, linking high resolution hydrodynamic models (HDM) of the marine environment with correlative species distribution models (SDM) and agent-based models (ABM), for describing the spatio-temporal distribution and movements of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) in the Norwegian Sea. The SDM was fitted with scientific mackerel trawl data as response variables (collected in July and August 2006–2014) and temperature (from the HDM), water depth and time period as predictors of spatial distributions. The SDM was able to produce dynamic predictions of a similar order of magnitude as observed catch per unit effort (CPUE) as well as realistic large-scale distribution patterns, when tested on independent data (not included in the modelling). The ABM was calibrated, with normalized SDM predictions (habitat suitability as a proxy for food availability) and hydrodynamics as input and simulated on a single year (2013) for the period May–October, when the migratory mackerel is present in the study area. A pattern-oriented modelling (POM) approach was used to verify if the model reproduced multiple observed real-world patterns. The ABM produced similar patterns as observed regarding migration timing, growth and large scale geographic distribution. Fine scaled information on mackerel movement and behaviour is limited, which is also reflected in the results. More data and knowledge are therefore required to improve the patterns emerging from fine scaled processes. The potential of the model for assessing an impact of a single seismic survey (mimicking a real survey) was finally evaluated. The exercise allowed estimating the number of affected fish (within 50 km from the sound source) and potential changes in local migrations, with the specific assumed minimum sound pressure thresholds (resulting in a fleeing reaction by the mackerel) set to 165 dB re 1 μPa. The model framework was shown to be useful by allowing simulations of impact scenarios in a realistic and dynamic environment. The model can be further updated when data on fine scale movements of mackerel and most importantly when improved data on response behaviour to impacts of sound become available.


Magda EwaChudzinskaa1
JonasBrandi MortensenbTheophilus Zhi EnTeobKjellRong UtnecLiseDoksæter SivlecFrankThomsena

Underwater noise abatement: Economic factors and policy options


Nathan D. Merchant

Underwater noise pollution is becoming globally recognised as a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems and the resources they provide. The effects of noise pollution extend from blue whales to zooplankton, impacting threatened species and affecting key industries including fisheries and ecotourism. In response, policymakers in some jurisdictions have made substantive high-level commitments to address noise pollution, however the implementation of noise reduction measures (noise abatement) remains limited. To support the development of effective noise management policies, this paper explores the economic and policy context to noise abatement in three major noise-generating industries: shipping, offshore windfarm construction, and seismic surveying for oil and gas. In each case, tractable policy options are identified which make considered use of command-and-control and incentive-based measures in light of the available noise abatement methods. Drawing on instructive examples from terrestrial noise management and other sectors, it is concluded that such measures offer the most promising long-term solution to deliver existing and future policy commitments to manage cumulative levels of underwater noise pollution.

Technical Support Information to the CMS Family - Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessments for Marine Noise-generating Activities

Following a multi-step consultation process as outlined in UNEP/CMS/COP12/Doc.24.2.2. (, a draft resolution revised draft Guidelines and related draft Decisions were prepared for consideration by the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS.  See also UNEP/CMS/COP12/CRP9/Rev.1

Jan 2018

Navy efforts to protect whales have limited effect

Naval efforts to protect endangered whales by gradually increasing the noise levels of soner have limited benefit, researchers at the University of St Andrews have found.  The process of slowly raising the noise level of sonar, known as 'ramp up' was adopted by several European navies, and geophysical explorers who use airguns to search for oil and gas reserves, as a method to reduce the harmful impact of very loud sounds produced by humans in the sea.

Paul J. Wensveen et al. Lack of behavioural responses of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) indicate limited effectiveness of sonar mitigation, The Journal of Experimental Biology (2017).  DOI: 10.1242/jeb.161232