XXIX SCAR Delegates Meeting
17-19 July 2006, Hobart, Australia
SCAR XXIX IP13: Report of Acoustics Workshop, Cadiz, January 2006
Infomation Paper 13
Agenda Item: 6.2.1
Posted/Revised: May 1
Person Responsible: Walton
- At XXIII ATCM in 2000 some Parties first expressed an interest in the potential effects of marine acoustic equipment on marine animals in the Southern Ocean, asking for an assessment of the available evidence to guide them in permitting procedures. At that time there were differences between national permitting agencies in assumptions about the level of impact on marine animals that acoustic equipment could have, resulting in differing requirements for environmental impact assessment and mitigation.
- In order to provide all Parties with an up to date assessment of what was known SCAR convened an international workshop in Cambridge in 2001 from which an Information Paper (IP24) and Working Paper (WP23) were provided to XXV ATCM for discussion.
- This first assessment reviewed the literature, considered the available evidence for mitigation measures and suggested a number of conclusions. Principal amongst these were that acoustic releases and similar low power sources were not considered any threat, that the evidence available did not justify a ban on seismic surveys or scientific echo-sounders in Antarctic waters, that mitigation strategies should be investigated to evaluate their effectiveness, and that further research and monitoring should be undertaken by the agencies to fill some of the considerable lacuna in the available evidence.
- The field of marine acoustics is however one of continuing and rapid development at a global scale. Since many of the species about which concern had been expressed (especially cetaceans) are migratory it was considered important to continue to review new evidence and update Parties on its significance. Accordingly SCAR held a second international workshop in Cambridge in 2004, using it to provide IP 78 for XXVII ATCM. In this paper a summary of major advances was provided (dealing specifically with considerations of Temporary Threshold Shift in animal hearing, and lessons drawn from beaked whale strandings) whilst the bulk of the paper provided the first systematic risk evaluation of 10 equipment types, linking the consequences and the likelihood in a matrix system. A much fuller account of the workshop conclusions has been posted as a SCAR Report on the SCAR web site.
- The discussion engendered at XXVII ATCM by this paper indicated that many Parties wished to be kept up to date with developments in this highly technical field. SCAR was therefore asked to bring a further report to XXIX ATCM, which reflected the latest scientific understandings generally and how these were relevant to the Southern Ocean.
- To consider the evidence SCAR convened its third international workshop, this time kindly hosted by the University of Cadiz in Spain in January 2006 over a period of three days. The open workshop was advertised through SCAR and COMNAP to all countries active in the Antarctic. Of particular importance was the participation of the Scientific Director of the International Whaling Commission as well as scientists who had taken part in the recent Marine Mammal Commission workshops on marine acoustics as well as ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas) and ASCOBAMS (Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area).
- In addition SCAR had requested COMNAP to determine as far as possible details of all the marine acoustic equipment currently in use on research and national logistic vessels operating in the Southern Ocean. This has been submitted as an Information paper by COMNAP.
- The purpose of the Cadiz workshop was to review improvements in knowledge and understanding of the interactions between marine mammals and noise generated by human activities in the Southern Ocean, as well as improving the original risk assessments for particular equipment types and considering the effectiveness of recommended mitigation measures.
- As well as individual scientific papers the participants had available the draft report from the Marine Mammal Commission International Workshop in London in 2004, the report “Marine mammal populations and ocean noise – determining when noise causes biologically significant effects” published in 2005 by the US National Research Council, various reports submitted to the Scientific Committee of the IWC, a paper detailing the development of an acoustic model for Polarstern undertaken by AWI, and a progress report on discussions of a workshop at Oxford in October 2005 on international priorities in marine acoustic research.