by Angela Haren
For full report click here.
There is mounting scientific evidence that anthropogenic (man-made) noise can harm and even kill marine mammals (including many endangered species). This evidence calls for a decision on what could and should be done to mitigate the effects of noise pollution. One important step is to safeguard marine protected areas from anthropogenic noise because these areas are ecologically important and are often critical habitat for marine mammals. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS or Sanctuary) is one such marine protected area facing this important decision.
Anthropogenic noise in the ocean can be characterized as high intensity and acute, such as military sonar, or low level and chronic, such as commercial shipping. The Sanctuary has been identified as particularly vulnerable to noise pollution from commercial shipping. This report seeks to answer the following policy questions: Given its limited scope of authority, what are the alternatives for the CINMS to reduce noise pollution from commercial shipping vessels within Sanctuary boundaries? Considering current constraints (monetary, political, limited authority) which of these alternatives is the best at this time, and which can CINMS strive to implement in the future?
First and foremost the Sanctuary must act now to institute an acoustic monitoring program. Further understanding of acoustic threats in the Sanctuary will aid in future policy development. Through the course of my research I made contact with a researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography who already has a three-year study planned for the Channel Islands area. The Sanctuary should coordinate with this research project to gain knowledge of the acoustic environment of the Sanctuary. This would involve existing research therefore few costs to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary should also work towards a permanent acoustic monitoring program.
CINMS should work to determine the appropriate protective measures to reduce noise pollution from commercial shipping and seek designation as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, or PSSA, under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to institute these measures. This international designation offers a geographically larger area of protection for the marine species than would Sanctuary-level protection alone. However, it should use its own authority to regulate sources of noise pollution other than commercial shipping vessels. Further, CINMS should coordinate its efforts with other sanctuaries concerned about noise pollution to share research and policy ideas.
Ship-quieting technology is a viable option to reduce the impact of noise on marine species in the Channel Islands and elsewhere. This option has tremendous potential to protect marine species around the world. This policy would have to be pursued at the international level, but, CINMS, and its Sanctuary Advisory Council, should advocate that the U.S. take ship quieting technology standards to the IMO.