Map of the Week – Underwater noise indicator | Central Portal

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Map of the Week – Underwater noise indicator

Map of the Week – Underwater noise indicator

On 9 April 2021, the European Commission published a roadmap for the review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), to examine its achievements and shortcomings, explore options for improvement and propose possible amendments. [1] The Marine Strategy Framework Directive was adopted in 2008 and aims to protect the marine environment across Europe. European Union Member States are required under the MSFD to develop strategies to achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES).  The Directive defines Good Environmental Status as: “the environmental status of marine waters where these provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive within their intrinsic conditions, and the use of the marine environment is at a level that is sustainable, thus safeguarding the potential for uses and activities by current and future generations”. The review of the MSFD aims to more effectively and efficiently protect the marine environment while enabling a sustainable use of EU seas and oceans in line with the EU environmental agenda under the European Green Deal. The roadmap is open for public feedback until 6 May 2021.

The MSFD Directive sets out, in its Annex I, eleven qualitative descriptors which describe what the environment will look like when Good Environmental Status has been achieved:

  1. Biodiversity is maintained.
  2. Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem.
  3. The population of commercial fish species is healthy.
  4. Elements of food webs ensure long-term abundance and reproduction.
  5. Eutrophication, a process driven by the enrichment of water by nutrients - especially compounds of nitrogen and/or phosphorus - is minimized.
  6. The sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem.
  7. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect the ecosystem.
  8. Concentrations of contaminants give no effects.
  9. Contaminants in seafood are below safe levels.
  10. Marine litter does not cause harm.
  11. Introduction of energy (including underwater noise) does not adversely affect the ecosystem.

This Map of the Week focuses on underwater noise. Human sources of noise in the marine environment are numerous including shipping for trade or tourism, recreational and fishing boats, construction of offshore oil and gas platforms and wind parks, dredging for shipping lanes, mining for sand and gravel, as well as pipe and cable laying activities. [2] Human sound sources are categorised as impulsive or continuous (ambient). Impulsive sound sources include percussive pile driving for inshore and offshore construction, seismic surveys, explosions, and some sonar sources. Continuous sound sources are mainly from shipping. [3] Sound can travel long distances under water. [4] Underwater sound from human sources has the potential to mask biological signals and to cause behavioural reactions, physiological effects, injuries and mortality in marine animals. [3] Monitoring underwater energy of marine waters and monitoring the impacts of individual public and private projects are key to addressing the issue of anthropogenic underwater noise. [2]

Dive into the Map of the Week to learn about underwater noise. The information in the map was derived from the Regional Impulsive Noise Event registries that are collected by OSPAR (in the North East Atlantic) and HELCOM (in Baltic Sea) hosted and managed by ICES, as well as from the Barcelona Convention and the ACCOBAMS (Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea).

Access the map

The data in this map are provided by EMODnet.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/environment/news/commission-publishes-msfd-roadmap-2021-04-09_en

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/environment/marine/good-environmental-status/descriptor-11/index_en.htm   

[3] https://www.ospar.org/work-areas/eiha/noise

[4] https://helcom.fi/action-areas/marine-litter-and-noise/underwater-noise/

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