Meeting on ambient noise monitoring in the North Sea

15 October 2019

The Secretariat attended a meeting on 7 October 2019 to review the progress of the JOMOPANS project – to establish ambient noise monitoring in the North Sea. The meeting involved country-led monitoring according to agreed standards and procedures and the application of a web-based GES tool developed by Michael Carter Ltd. It integrates information from mapping, measurements and biological data and it presents cross sections through all the JOMOPANS maps (estimated: 1500 maps).

The major(harmful) effect of ambient noise masking and the SNR (signal-to-noise-ratio) is an indicator for the amount of masking an animal perceives. From this it is derived that excess level (the difference between the total ambient sound level and the background level of natural sound) is the metric to use in the assessments. A possible basis for a GES threshold could be linked to masking effects, e.g. an increase of 20Db leads to 90% reduction in communication range. An assessment can compare the % of time where the excess over natural levels to the % of area above the cut-off. Hot spots include the English Channel and tip of Denmark. These hot spots can be compared to ranges of sensitive species or rather the suitable habitats for them

There was an important discussion on how a long term “joint” monitoring programme would work. In theory the most efficient way forward would be for all relevant countries to contribute to the financing of a single programme run by one or other organisation. This ought to help keep the number of monitoring stations to the minimum required to support the modelling and would help with consistency. However, another approach could be to agree on the efficient set up of monitoring stations but for these to be operated by each country (using agreed standards etc) and just to share financing of the modelling and GES tool.

It was recognised that OSPAR could play a role as a platform where all national authorities / decision makers get together. The JOMOPANS project team will submit a proposal for an implementation plan to various OSPAR committees. Consultation will involve ICG Noise, EIHA and CoG.