Underwater noise and other forms of energy input

Underwater noise has become an emerging environmental issue in light of growing transport and industrial activities at sea. Whether emitted deliberately (e.g. military sonar) or as a by-product of other actions (e.g. shipping), manmade sound induces a range of behavioural reactions, and can even cause death. Sound can reach very far underwater, and its impacts can be felt at large distances.

Photo: Seismic blasting creating underwater noise
© Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Short-term impulsive sounds from seismic surveys, impact pile-driving, or military sonar have the greatest potential to affect marine mammals. These can lead to changes in their distribution, which in turn could affect life functions such as mating and migration, and thus species populations. There is also evidence that ambient sound has increased in some marine areas due to the intensification of ship traffic. Prolonged exposure can lead to physiological and behavioural stress, affecting in particular communication in whales.

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Relevant MSFD Descriptors

Descriptor 11. Introduction of energy (including underwater noise) does not adversely affect the ecosystem

Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment.