Feds eye measures to reduce ocean noise

The federal government is kicking off an effort to examine out the effects of excessive ocean noise on animals and their habitats and how the government can turn down the volume.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday rolled out an extensive draft “road map” for reducing ocean noise and will accept input on the proposal through June.


It’s an early step toward responding to years of pressure from conservationists, who see noise as a top threat to sea animals that is at least somewhat within the government’s control.

Ocean noise comes from sources including commercial shipping, naval sonar, offshore drilling and its related activities.

NOAA envisions that its noise plan, meant to last for 10 years, would focus on goals for noise reduction. The agency isn’t planning specific regulations but could use its recommendations and findings to inform regulatory decisions.

“Numerous studies illustrate specific adverse physical and behavioral effects that exposure to certain sound types and levels can have on different species,” NOAA said in its draft.

“The Strategy Roadmap is not intended to be a prescriptive listing of program-level actions,” it said. “Instead this document is intended to provide a cross-line office roadmap summarizing some of the essential steps that could be taken across the agency to achieve the Strategy’s goals for more comprehensive management of noise impacts.”

NOAA’s responsibility for the noise comes chiefly from its duty to protect endangered species that live in  ocean areas under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has long pushed for action against ocean noise, welcomed the announcement.

“This holds great promise for managing noise as the pervasive ocean pollutant it has become,” Michael Jasny, director of the group’s marine mammal protection project, said in a statement.

“The key, though, is implementation — and that takes resources, and a timeline for getting it done. We hope this means that NOAA, after years of inaction, is turning a corner on a critical conservation issue."