Protecting Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises from the Harmful Effects of Man-Made Ocean Noise
(Palma de Majorca, Spain — 12 November 2004) — Delegates from 16 countries meeting in Majorca, Spain this week adopted a resolution recognizing man-made ocean noise as a dangerous pollutant which can disturb, injure and even kill whales and other marine species.
The meeting of the parties to ACCOBAMS (the United Nations Environment Program’s Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area) comes two weeks after the European Parliament adopted a groundbreaking resolution to protect marine mammals from high-intensity active naval sonar. Last week, Spain reacted to a series of mass whale mortalities in the Canaries by announcing a moratorium on the military use of active sonar in waters around the islands.
This commitment by the ACCOBAMS parties and the important precedent set by the Spanish initiative are, “significant steps forward in the fight against ocean noise pollution,”¯ said Lesley O’Donnell, Director of IFAW EU.
Andrew Wetzler, a senior lawyer with NRDC added: “Whales and dolphins are being killed and injured by this largely unregulated form of pollution. This ACCOBAMS resolution and the European Parliament decision two weeks ago demonstrate a growing international consensus that something must be done to control underwater noise.”¯
The ACCOBAMS resolution urges Parties to:
Sound is crucial to whales, dolphins and porpoises and some other marine species for navigation, communication and finding food. Any disturbance that undermines their ability to transmit or recognize sounds may jeopardize their capacity to function and, over the long term, to reproduce and survive.
There is increasing scientific evidence showing that noise pollution from various sources (e.g. high intensity military sonar, shipping, drilling and construction noise, sea-bed explorations and extraction activities) can disturb, injure and even kill whales and other ocean life. In Greece in 1996, 12 beaked whales were killed following a military exercise, and in the Canaries there have been at least seven cases of whale strandings and deaths since 1985 that have been associated with military sonar.
These forms of harmful noise are currently unregulated by the European Union, although any energy source (noise) is recognized as a form of pollution under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
Note to editors:
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is an international, non-profit NGO dedicated to wildlife conservation and animal welfare, with 14 offices and more than 2 million supporters worldwide. IFAW seeks to reduce commercial exploitation of animals, protect wildlife habitats and assist animals in distress, promoting policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people. Over the past two decades, IFAW scientists and funded research projects have made significant contributions to marine conservation and science and IFAW offices have campaigned for measures to protect cetaceans from threats such as bycatch and ocean noise.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists, served from four offices in the United States. NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Program works to safeguard whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide, focusing especially on habitat protection and, during the past decade, the problem of ocean noise pollution.