Marine seismic surveys and ocean noise: time for coordinated and prudent planning

Douglas P. Nowacek*, Christopher W. Clark, David Mann, Patrick J. O. Miller, Howard C. Rosenbaum, Jay S. Golden, Michael Jasny, James Kraska, Brandon L. Southall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)
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Marine seismic surveys use intense (eg >= 230 decibel [dB] root mean square [RMS]) sound impulses to explore the ocean bottom for hydrocarbon deposits, conduct geophysical research, and establish resource claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The expansion of seismic surveys necessitates greater regional and international dialogue, partnerships, and planning to manage potential environmental risks. Data indicate several reasons for concern about the negative impacts of anthropogenic noise on numerous marine species, including habitat displacement, disruption of biologically important behaviors, masking of communication signals, chronic stress, and potential auditory damage. The sound impulses from seismic surveys - spanning temporal and spatial scales broader than those typically considered in environmental assessments - may have acute, cumulative, and chronic effects on marine organisms. Given the international and transboundary nature of noise from marine seismic surveys, we suggest the creation of an international regulatory instrument, potentially an annex to the existing International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, to address the issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-386
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • Mid-atlantic ocean
  • Intermittent noise
  • Whales
  • Fish
  • Governance
  • Principles
  • Framework
  • Abundance
  • Airguns
  • Sounds


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