The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released to the public brightly-colored sound maps that visualize the types and amounts of noise that can be heard deep within the world’s oceans. It is the first phase of what could be the world’s largest project designed to monitor and ultimately mitigate the impact of noise pollution on sea mammals, particularly whales, which rely on their hearing to locate food and each other. The release of the sound maps coincided with a separate release of maps that identified the locations of whale, porpoise, and dolphin populations.
What’s the Big Idea?
Both the United States and the United Nations have laws to help set ocean acoustic standards, but it’s only in the last few years that any serious conversation has begun on tackling increasing levels of noise brought on by human activity. That noise ranges from the sounds of cargo ships to military sonar blasts that result in full or partial hearing loss for over 250,000 sea mammals each year. Michael Jasny, a policy analyst with the private Natural Resources Defense Council, says the maps are extremely important in that they help “scientists, regulators and the public to visualize the problem. Once you see the pictures, the serious risk that ocean noise poses to the very fabric of marine life becomes impossible to ignore.”