Noisier oceans threaten whales and dolphins, experts warn at UN gathering

3 December 2008

Increased noises generated by larger numbers of ships, seismic surveys and use of new military sonars are imperiling creatures such as whales and dolphins, who use sound to communicate and find food, experts said today at a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) gathering in Rome.

An alliance of wildlife groups at the 9th meeting of the Convention on Migratory Species – an intergovernmental treaty concluded under UNEP’s aegis – that seeks to conserve wildlife and habitats on a global scale issued the warning, urging governments and the private sector to use quieter ship engines.

They also called for tightened laws on using seismic surveys to explore for gas and oil, as well as less intrusive sonar technologies by militaries.

“Underwater, man-made noise is already triggering a kind of acoustic fog and a cacophony of sound in many parts of the world seas and oceans,” said Mark Simmonds, Science Director of the Whale and Conservation Society, who is attending the UNEP conference.

Compounding the problem is the rising acidity levels in the seas and oceans, which could reach a point in the coming decades where noise generated by vessels, surveys and others will travel 70 per cent further than they do currently.

The European Community and its Member States have submitted a draft resolution on curbing marine noise to the UNEP conference.

In a related development, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today announced a new partnership to help industry and manufacturing companies take part in global efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the initiative, participants in developing countries will be able to meet to exchange experiences, and the ultimate aim of the project is to promote climate change mitigation compacts to create responsible and sustainable business practices.

The first phase of the “Industrial Climate Change Compacts: A United Nations-Business Partnership for Sustainability” will focus on China and South Africa, which were chosen because they are the manufacturing hubs of their respective continents and are both developing countries with relatively high emissions.


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