Continuous underwater noise mapping

Helping the MMO understand man-made continuous underwater noise to inform policy

Quantification of underwater noise is a current and evolving topic in marine environmental science that is relevant to marine plan policy development. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) recognised that there was insufficient data to support a quantitative assessment of underwater noise levels and its impact on the natural environment at marine plan or national scale. We were asked to develop a spatial model to estimate the distribution of man-made continuous underwater noise in the South Marine Plan areas.

The resultant model made best use of available spatial data on the spatial and temporal distribution of anthropogenic continuous noise sources including commercial shipping > 300 GRT, aggregate dredgers and commercial fishing vessels >15 m in length. The spatial and temporal distribution of man-made continuous underwater noise was then estimated taking account of indicative source noise levels using a simple noise propagation model.

This research and development work represents an initial step in addressing the recognised gap in availability of consistent plan scale indicative map(s) of anthropogenic underwater noise distribution and levels to support marine planning.

The report was published in August 2015, outputs from the study have been used to inform policies in the draft South Marine Plans.

The report can be found on the MMO website.