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Governments and Wildlife Groups Take Soundings on Noise Pollution and Ship Strike Threats to Whales and Dolphins

Rising Levels of Greenhouse Gases May Aggravate Rising Tide of Noise from Ships, Oil Exploration and Military Sonar

Rome/Bonn/Nairobi, 3 December 2008 - The world's oceans and seas are becoming noisier as a result of increases in vessels; a rise in seismic surveys and because of the new generation of military sonars , an alliance of wildlife groups said today.

They are concerned that the cacophony of sounds pervading the once seas are intensifying threats to marine mammals who use sound, sometimes over great distances, to communicate, forage for food and find mates.

The groups, attending a the United Nations Environment Programme's Convention on Migratory Species conference in Rome, are urging governments and industry to adopt quieter engines for ships, tighter rules on the use of seismic surveys in oil and gas exploration and new, less intrusive sonar technologies by navies.

The news comes amid new concerns that rising levels of carbon dioxide (C02), the result of the burning of fossil fuels, may be aggravating noise levels from increased human activities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation, warned in its latest report of growing acidity or 'acidification' of seas and oceans.

The IPCC flagged concern over the impacts of falling PH levels (increasing acidity) on coral-reef building creatures and on plankton at the base of the marine food chain.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in the United States are also suggesting that increasing ocean acidity may be making the marine environment noisier.

Indeed the changing chemistry of seawater may mean that currently it is 10 per cent less absorbent of 'low' frequency sound than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Unless emissions of greenhouse gases are cut - a key issue on the table this week in Poznan, Poland at the UN climate convention meeting - acidity levels in the seas and oceans could reach a point by 2050 where noise from ships to seismic guns is travelling 70 per cent further.

Mark Simmonds Science Director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, who is attending the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species meeting, said: "Underwater, man-made noise, is already triggering a kind of acoustic fog and a cacophony of sound in many parts of the world seas and oceans.

"In addition there is now evidence linking loud underwater noises with some major strandings of marine mammals, especially deep diving beaked whales. However, it also appears that other species may also be affected and this year has for example witnessed two major stranding events in Madagascar and the United Kingdom which are still being investigated," he added

"Now we confronted with cutting-edge evidence that fossil fuel burning and the build-up of C02 may pose a new and even 'louder' threat unless urgent action is taken to cut emissions over the coming years and decades. There clearly needs to be a comprehensive and joined-up response to noise pollution in the underwater world,"he added.

The European Community and its member states have submitted a draft resolution to the 9th Conference of the Parties to the UNEP-CMS this week on marine noise. ( READ FULL STORY)

For More Information Please Contact

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, Office of the Executive Director, mobile: + 254 733 632755 / +41 79 596 57 37, e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

or Veronika Lenarz. UNEP/CMS Secretariat;

Tel. Tel. +39-3664539082, Mobile +49-(0)176 63153560E-mail: vlenarz@cms.int




Further Resources

The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

Press release from the American Geophysical Union

IFAW Ocean Noise Turn It Down - A report on ocean noise pollution

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

WDCS Oceans of Noise Report

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society


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