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UN Meeting for Migratory Species Turns Down the Volume in our Oceans

28 October 2017

On October 28, 120 of the world’s governments adopted new global Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for Marine Noise-generating Activities. This game-changing event took place during the 12th Meeting of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

This decision is especially sweet, because the Guidelines were written by one of our own–Wild Migration's Technical Director, Geoff Prideaux

Over the past two years, Geoff has coordinated a project for CMS from his farm in Gosse. He has collected expert information about the full range of species impacted by marine noise–from whales and sealions to fish, to polar bears. He has developed accessible information about the nature of sound and marine noise-generating activities including seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration, shipping, pile driving and military sonar so that decision-makers in government are able to make sense of the technical detail that is presented to them. Together with other experts, he has developed Guidelines for governments to use when requesting Environmental Impact Assessments for marine noise-generating activities. The Guidelines went through two rounds of exhaustive consultation process over more than six months.

Until now, in many regions, poor assessments are undertaken, if at all. They rarely address the serious impacts of the noise they create on marine wildlife and the wider marine ecosystem. While behavioural changes, displacement, temporary or permanent hearing loss or physical damage, including death, have been documented for many marine mammal species, recent studies have provided a new dimension of concern. Intense noise activities can have fatal consequences on fish species and zooplankton, with a severe impact on the whole food web.

“Intense noise sources can be lethal. It is high time that we properly assess activities that have devastating potential to impact whole marine ecosystems” said Geoff Prideaux after the Guidelines were adopted. “The Guidelines had their genesis in communities struggling to access truthful information. Finally, they are vindicated. This decision is a game changer. Now there is a robust tool for management authorities around the world to transparently assess if marine activities should proceed. At last we can turn down the volume in our oceans.”

The intial discussion was webcast on Tuesday, October 24.

After moving to a working group for the rest of the week, the Guidelines were adopted on Saturday October 28.

The documents that were adopted on the final day of the meeting can be read online. In the coming weeks these documents will be assigned resolution numbers. We will post these again at that point:

Adverse Impacts of Anthropogenic Noise on Cetaceans and Other Migratory Species

Annex to Adverse Impacts of Anthropogenic Noise on Cetaceans and Other Migratory Species

Technical Support Information to the CMS Family Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment for Marine Noise Generating Activities

Photo: Geoff Prideaux, 2017

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