Anthropogenic underwater noise

Anthropogenic noise in the marine environment is caused by a wide array of human activities (e.g., Ship traffic, underwater sonars, seismic). Anthropogenic underwater noise can be classed as either acute or chronic.  Acute noise, such as seismic surveys or military sonar, is high in intensity, short in duration and often pulsed. Chronic noise refers to long term, low intensity noise, for example from shipping and industrial activity.  Both have the potential to impact on cetacean behaviour and physiology. 

Anthropogenic ocean noise is highlighted as one of the priority threats in the Strategic Plan of the IWC Conservation Committee, and work continues at the Scientific Committee to better understand the impact of noise on cetaceans, and the effectiveness of different approaches to reducing exposure. In 2018, the Commission agreed by consensus, a Resolution that recognised the increasing concern over ocean noise and clarified next steps in order to better understand and manage the threat.  

Click here to read the 2018 Resolution on Anthropogenic Underwater Noise. 

USA Current Threats to Cetacean Conservation and Management Measures Taken/Proposed

Anthropogenic underwater sound has the potential to cause adverse effects on cetaceans and cetacean populations. To better assess these potential impacts, NMFS recently finalized technical guidance for assessing acoustic effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal hearing. More information is available online at

Australia Research Projects

The AMMC hosts the National Marine Mammal Data Portal. This portal collates and protects data that facilitates data-driven management and conservation decisions, as well as assisting with reporting obligations to the IWC. The AMMC also leads Australia's scientific commitment to the Commission’s Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP).