Sounds are omnipresent in the underwater environment and can be produced by natural (waves, weather, animals) and anthropogenic (shipping, construction) sources. There is an increasing concern about the possibility of negative effects of anthropogenic underwater sound on marine fauna. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD: 2008/56/EG) requires all EU Member States (MS) to reach or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES). GES is described in 11 Descriptors and all the MS must set criteria and methodological standards for each Descriptor in their marine strategies. The MSFD explicitly encourages regional co-operation between member states. Descriptor 11 focuses on introduction of energy in the marine environment, including underwater sounds. It describes two indicators: loud, low and mid frequency impulsive sounds (11.1.1); and continuous low frequency sound (11.2.1), widely referred to as “ambient sound”. Ambient sound arises from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Current noise levels in European marine waters and their impact on the ecosystem are largely unknown. The aim of this project is to develop a framework for a fully operational joint monitoring programme for ambient sound in the North Sea. Outputs will be the tools necessary for managers, planners and other stakeholders to incorporate the effects of ambient noise in their assessment of the environmental status of the North Sea, and to develop measures to improve the environment.
IQOE is past the mid-point in implementation of its Science Plan (available here) and has successfully coordinated a variety of activities in ocean acoustics and bioacoustics through IQOE working groups on the use of acoustics to assess biodiversity, the importance of acoustic observations in the Arctic Ocean, standards for reporting ocean acoustic and bioacoustic data for IQOE, software for making acoustic observations comparable worldwide, and recommendations for implementation of an Ocean Sound Essential Ocean Variable for the Global Ocean Observing System. IQOE progress has been documented since June 2018 through IQOE Newsletters and since the beginning of the project through other products. IQOE identified 2020 as the Year of the Quiet Ocean because of evidence that ocean sound decreased because of decreases in human activities in the ocean due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Activities in 2022 will include completion of the Ocean Sound Essential Ocean Variable Implementation Plan, initiation of new activities on low-cost ocean acoustic observing systems, launch of the Open Portal to Underwater Sound (OPUS), work on ocean acoustics for the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and meetings of IQOE working groups and Science Committee.