Decisions Document Number
Long Title
Resolution on anthropogenic underwater noise

Recognising the increased understanding of environmental stressors to cetaceans since the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) was concluded in 1946;
Noting that cetaceans fundamentally depend on sound for their survival and that exposure to certain anthropogenic underwater noise can have both physiological and behavioural consequences for cetaceans;
Further noting that noise can travel over long ranges in the marine environment across and beyond areas of national jurisdiction;
Recognising the rapid growth during recent decades of anthropogenic underwater noise generated by human activities, as evidenced from locations where such data are available, such as shipping, seismic exploration, drilling, construction etc.;
Noting the advice of the Scientific Committee, presented in its 2016 report that there is evidence indicating that chronic anthropogenic underwater noise is affecting the marine acoustic environment in many regions, and that there is emerging evidence that compromised acoustic habitat may adversely affect some cetacean populations;
Noting that emerging research indicates there may be effects of anthropogenic underwater noise at lower trophic levels;
Recalling the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that sets out the obligation on States to protect and preserve the marine environment and, to assess the potential effects of activities that may cause substantial pollution or significant and harmful changes to the marine environment, including marine mammals;
Further recalling Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development "Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Sea and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development" and its Target 14.1 to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025;
Noting that anthropogenic underwater noise is not persistent and can be reduced in the marine environment immediately by reducing the emissions of noise at the source;
Gratefully acknowledging the significant body of work accomplished to date by the Scientific Committee on the issue of anthropogenic underwater noise;
Welcoming the inclusion of anthropogenic underwater noise as a priority threat to address in the Conservation Committee’s Strategic Plan 2016-2026;
Further welcoming the increased attention being given to the issue of anthropogenic underwater noise by international bodies including: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and its daughter agreements; the International Maritime Organization (IMO); and the United Nations General Assembly, and Regional bodies such as the Regional Seas Conventions;
Further noting examination of the issue of anthropogenic underwater noise by the UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, in June 2018 to which the IWC contributed extensively;
Now, therefore the Commission:
1.Agrees that considering anthropogenic underwater noise will contribute towards achieving Goal 14of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development "Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Sea andMarine Resources for Sustainable Development"
2.Further agrees that, in line with the precautionary approach, the lack of full scientific certainty shallnot be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to address the effects of anthropogenicunderwater noise (or other potential threats);
3.Recommends contracting governments to:
a.Incentivize the development, adoption and voluntary transfer, on mutually agreed terms, of technologies and strategies that mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise oncetaceans from various activities that produce the noise; If appropriate, this could be carriedout through regulatory measures;
b.Consider working with appropriate stakeholders to establish national and regionalanthropogenic noise registers and monitoring programmes, as appropriate, to support theassessment of anthropogenic underwater noise impacts on cetaceans;
c.Engage with industries, academia, NGOs, and other stakeholders to support the developmentand implementation of mitigation strategies and best practices that protect cetaceans in linewith an ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach;
d.Take into account best practice guidelines to ensure robust, comprehensive, and transparentassessment and to facilitate mitigation of adverse effects of anthropogenic underwater noise,such as the IMO Guidelines for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping to address adverse impacts on marine life (circular MEPC.1/Circ.833) and the CMS guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessments for Marine Noise-generating Activities (CMS, 2017);
e.Consider that cetacean research and conservation management efforts include the protectionof the acoustic habitat and the impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise on lower trophiclevels, including fish, invertebrates and other marine mammal prey species;
f.Support the adoption of measures, such as noise standards, by relevant national andinternational authorities that reduce the risk of harmful impacts occurring on cetaceans fromthe introduction of anthropogenic underwater noise;
4.Instructs the Scientific Committee to continue its work regarding anthropogenic underwater noiseand cetaceans, with a particular focus on: (1) evaluation of the extent and degree of exposure of cetaceans to different types of noise; (2) obtaining a better understanding of the effects of noise oncetaceans at the individual and population level, including chronic and acute effects; (3) reviewing theeffectiveness of different approaches to reducing cetacean exposure to noise; and (4) reviewing workon the impacts of noise on cetacean prey and considering any implications of this for cetaceanpopulations via the food-chain;
5.Instructs the Conservation Committee to review progress in implementing IWC Recommendationson the mitigation and management of anthropogenic underwater noise and, based on this review,develop advice on priority actions to implement to address the impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise on cetaceans;
6.Agrees that the provisions in this Resolution should not duplicate the work of other organizations inaddressing this matter;
7.Requests the IWC Secretariat to:
a.forward a copy of this Resolution to the Secretariats of the CBD, CMS, IMO, FAO and other relevant specialized agencies and programs of the UN, including the Division on Oceans andLaw of the Sea;
b.bring information relating to anthropogenic underwater noise impacts on cetaceans to theattention of these forums; and
c.encourage actions by and promote cooperation between these forums, consistent with theirmandates, to address anthropogenic underwater noise in recognition of the impacts it canhave on cetaceans.