Ocean Noise

Marine animals use sound to navigate, communicate, find food, locate mates, and avoid predators. Flooding their world with intense sound interferes with these activities and results in serious - sometimes fatal - consequences. Anthropogenic (human-generated) noise levels in the marine environment are increasing at an alarming rate. In some areas, noise levels have doubled every decade for the past 60 years. There is mounting concern that noise proliferation poses a significant threat to marine ecosystems and the survival of marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife.

AWI is an active partner of the International Ocean Noise Coalition, an alliance of over 150 groups working for international regulation of ocean noise. With representatives on every continent, IONC was created to establish a global approach to combating human-generated ocean noise. Since 2005, AWI has been working with IONC at the United Nations and in other international forums to raise awareness about the issue and ultimately to advocate for ways to address the problem.

Although noise is a recognized form of pollution, sources of noise in the marine environment are not regulated at an international level. In the past half-decade international institutions have begun to recognize the threat it poses to marine life and have been calling for precautions in the creation of anthropogenic ocean noise.

Find out more about the impacts of ocean noise on marine life, the sources of human-generated ocean noise, and the international bodies and agreements addressing anthropogenic ocean noise.

How Loud is Anthropogenic Ocean Noise?

Sound energy is measured in decibels (dB) relative to the threshold of human hearing. The decibel scale is logarithmic, which means 20dB is not merely twice as loud as 10dB, but rather represents 10 times more sound energy; 30dB is 100 times more. In the table below, the supertanker produces over 100 times more sound energy than the tanker.

Comparative Scale of Known Ocean Noises and their Noise Levels