SEA’s Senior Scientist Dr. Brandon Southall recently authored a chapter within the Encyclopedia of Maritime and Offshore Engineering (Wiley). This publication traces a decade-long collaboration among several governmental, non-governmental, academic, and industry partners to begin to tackle the global issue of shipping noise in the ocean and it’s potential effects on marine mammals. Beginning with simply identifying this issue as a broad consideration, to proposing some international partnerships, and ultimately the implementation of voluntary guidelines for vessel-quieting, this was both a great accomplishment and a great example of how cross-sectoral partnerships can work in addressing difficult issues. The chapter is currently featured on the Wiley site and available to view online at:

The citation for this chapter and the abstract is available below:

Southall, B. L., Scholik-Schlomer, A., Hatch, L., Bergmann, T., Jasny, M., Metcalf, K., Weilgart, L. and Wright, A. J. (2017). Underwater Noise from Large Commercial Ships – International Collaboration for Noise Reduction in Encyclopedia of Maritime and Offshore Engineering (J. Carlton, P. Jukes, Y. S. Choo, eds). Wiley & sons Publishing, New York, NY). DOI: 10.1002/9781118476406.emoe056. ISBN: 978-1-118-47635-2

Ambient noise in broad areas of the ocean has increased significantly over the last half-century from the introduction of tens of thousands of commercial ships continuously transiting the sea.  Ship-radiated noise is predominately low frequency (<1000 Hz) other than close to vessels, and aggregate noise can dominate low-frequency bands, even well outside shipping lanes. Such sounds add to an already noisy background and can affect marine animals in various ways. This includes reducing the areas over which they can communicate, particularly for species that rely on low-frequency sounds like baleen whales, seals, and fishes. An international community of researchers, environmental groups, government agencies, and sectors of the shipping industry has recognized shipping noise as an important marine conservation issue, as have various international bodies, notably the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization (IMO). Reducing potential impacts from aggregate vessel noise is challenging given the nature and magnitude of the issue and the historical lack of regulation. But substantial recent progress has been made by proactive collaborations among environmentalists, regulators, scientists, and industry, leading to progress in the IMO in the development of guidelines for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping. This chapter discusses low-frequency noise incidentally radiated from ships and its potential effects on marine life, with an emphasis on marine mammals. We also trace the formation and evolution of efforts to address environmental and economic costs and benefits of ship-quieting efforts. The authors represent a range of governmental, scientific, industry, and conservation organizations centrally engaged in the IMO effort.