Project Title
Priority 3 Sustainable North Sea Region: Protecting against climate change and preserving the environment
Lead Beneficiary
Rijkswaterstaat the Netherlands
Contact Person First Name
Contact Person Last Name
Zuiderwagenplein 2
P.O. Box
P.O. Box 17
Postal Code
8200 AA
+31 6 53215242
Central Aim

This project aims to develop a structure for a fully operational joint monitoring programme for ambient noise (Indicator 11.2.1 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, MSFD: 2008/56/EG) in the North Sea.  In addition, the project aims to provide tools necessary for managers, planners and other stakeholders to assess the effect of ambient noise on the environmental status of the North Sea, and to co-ordinate their activities in a trans-national manner.

Project Description

Sounds are omnipresent in the underwater environment, and can be produced by natural and anthropogenic sources. Natural sound sources include breaking waves, splashes from raindrops, lightning, wave-wave interactions and the sound produced by marine fauna. Anthropogenic activities such as shipping, military activities, construction work and oil and gas exploration lead to an increase of underwater sound sources. In comparison to air, water supports propagation of sound better and the attenuation is less, resulting in sound travelling faster and over longer distances in water than in air. There is an increasing concern about the possibility of negative effects of anthropogenic underwater noise on marine fauna. For instance behaviour such as foraging, migration and reproduction could be disrupted. In some cases hearing impairment or physical damage can occur in species such as fish or marine mammals, which may in turn affect the population. In 2008 the European Commission approved the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD: 2008/56/EG), requiring all EU Member States (MS), to reach or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020. GES is described in eleven descriptors and all the MS must set criteria and methodological standards for each descriptor in their marine strategies. The MSFD explicitly encourages regional co-operation between member states through the regional sea conventions, like OSPAR. Descriptor 11 focuses on the energy in the marine environment, including underwater noise. Descriptor 11 describes two types of underwater sound, divided into two indicators: loud, low and mid frequency impulsive sounds (11.1.1) and continuous low frequency sound (11.2.1), widely referred to as “ambient noise”. This project focuses on ambient noise, which is caused by both natural and anthropogenic sources. Current ambient noise levels in European marine waters and their impact on the ecosystem are largely unknown. Increasing ambient noise levels would increase the pressure on marine ecosystems. However each Member State should reach or maintain GES in their part of the international seas, like the North Sea. The ambient noise indicator focuses on the monitoring of the trends in the ambient noise levels. For this, each Member State is required to start a monitoring programme to measure the trends in ambient noise levels, to know what contributes to the ambient noise levels and to what extent.

Envisaged Output

The result of the project will be a structure for a full monitoring programme for ambient noise in the North Sea. Outputs will be the tools necessary for managers, planners and other stakeholders to assess the effect of ambient noise on the environmental status of the North Sea, and to co-ordinate their activities in a trans-national manner. These outputs will include standards for noise measurement and modelling, validated sound maps of the North Sea, tools for predicting trends in the ambient noise levels as requested by Indicator 11.2.1 of the MSFD, and tools for assessing GES. The standards will be developed in close cooperation with other comparable monitoring projects (BIAS, JONAS, MEDMAN, GLOSS) and will be based on the work of the MSFD Common Implementation Strategy Technical Group on Underwater Noise. This common approach will deliver comparable data, enhance the quality of the monitoring programme and will lower the costs for monitoring of Indicator 11.2.1.

What is the need for this project?

Activities which cause the ambient noise levels in the North Sea as well as the propagation of noise itself have a trans-national character. Therefore monitoring as well as imposing measures to mitigate impact of ambient noise on the ecosystem (to reach GES) ask for a common trans-national approach. Each Member State might work on its own to monitor the trends in the ambient noise levels in their sea area, but in the case of the North Sea, each Member state would need to cover the whole North Sea to determine what is going on in their part of the North Sea, resulting in unnecessary duplication of effort. Furthermore the measures which must be taken to lower ambient noise levels in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of country A, probably have to be taken in the EEZ of country B. By setting up a common standardized monitoring programme, consisting of a combination of measurements and modelling, and by developing common assessment tools, this project will deliver the basic knowledge, standardized methods and tools for the future Ambient Noise Monitoring and management in the North Sea. This will allow a coordinated standardized and validated joint monitoring effort.

Thematic Keywords
Ecosystem management
Sustainable environmental management
Other Keywords
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Partners Found Already

Swedish Defence Research Centre (FOI) (Sweden)

Marine Scotland (Scotland)

SMRU Consulting (UK)

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science (Belgium)

Danish Hydraulic Institute (Denmark)

Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (Germany)

DW-Shipconsult (Germany)

Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics (Germany)

National Physical Laboratorium (UK)

Nederlandse Organisatie voor natuurwetenschappelijk onderzoek (Netherlands)

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (UK)

Institute of Marine Research (Norway)

QuietOceans (France)

SHOM (France)

Sinay (France)

Partners Searched
Estimated Budget

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