OMI Works Internationally to Protect Whales and Dolphins
from Underwater Noise Pollution

Since 1986 OMI has been doing research on the impact of human marine activities on whales and dolphins. When appropriate we use the data to help state and federal agencies develop guidelines to protect marine mammals.

We have found that the behavior of humpback whales is significantly changed by the engine noise of approaching boats. This research on engine noise prompted us to focus our conservation efforts on the issue of underwater noise pollution.

We first started to work on the underwater noise issue in the mid 1990's when a controversy escalated in Hawaii about the installation of an intense noise source that was part of a project called ATOC (Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate). Then in 1997 the Navy began conducting tests of LFAS (Low Frequency Active Sonar) an even more intense noise source, off the California coast. When we learned that similar tests were scheduled in Hawaiian waters in 1998 we tried to get a court restraining order to stop the tests. Animal Welfare Institute, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace Hawaii, and Earthtrust later joined our action. Since this lawsuit in 1998 through 2001 we focused our efforts on trying to stop deployment of LFAS and other high intensity sonars by the U.S. Navy. You can read more about our work in this area at   LFAS Chronology.

However, underwater noise pollution is an international issue since acoustic energy does not recognize national boundaries. Therefore, since 2002 we have refocused our efforts on educating and working with key international organizations including the European Parliament, the United Nations and NATO on mitigating the impacts of intense underwater noise on marine life.

To enable you to see exactly what we have accomplished so far and what we are currently working on in the international arena, we have provided the breakout below:


May - Dr. Green travels to Japan to attend a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to educate commissioners about effects of LFAS and lobby for a statement about LFAS from the Scientific Committee.

June - OMI arranges initial visit of Dr. Green, Dr. Linda Weilgart and Sue Arnold to meet members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels to inform them of the dangers of underwater noise pollution.

July - Dr. Green speaks on LFAS at a Whale Zone Symposium sponsored by ASMS (Swiss Marine Mammal Protection Group) in Zurich, Switzerland.

October - Dr. Green serves as scientific advisor to the European Federation of Green Parties in drafting a resolution opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars. The resolution passes at the annual meeting of the Federation in November 2002:


May and June - Dr. Green and Michael Jasny (NRDC) draft a petition opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars.

June - During a second visit to Parliament Dr. Green works with the Parliament's Environment Committee requesting them to consider drafting a resolution on high intensity active sonars.

June - Dr. Green speaks on High Intensity Active Sonars in Berlin, at an interactive event aimed at raising awareness of the threats posed by noise pollution and giving people an opportunity to enter the sound filled world of whales and dolphins. Hosted by Swiss Marine Mammal Protection (ASMS), The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), and Liquid Sound, the event included presentations by scientists and artists. This talk took place on the eve of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

October - Dr. Green and Sigrid Lueber (ASMS) organize a delegation of scientists, Members of the European Parliament and environmentalists to meet with and educate representatives of NATO. Additionally, they delivered 2 petitions opposing the use of High Intensity Active Sonars by NATO member states.   See historic pictures!


June - Dr. Green attends the Fifth Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations in New York. The conference is an annual process to review issues and indicate emerging concerns regarding oceans and reports directly to the UN General Assembly. Dr. Green attended the meeting in order to increase awareness among governments about intense underwater noise pollution.

July - Dr. Green travels to Sorrento Italy to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission and participate in the formation of an International Ocean Noise Coalition- a group of Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) around the globe working to stop underwater noise pollution.

September - Dr. Green traveled to London to participate in an International Policy Workshop on sound and marine mammals.

October -The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the Member States of the European Union to adopt geographic restrictions on the use of high intensity naval sonars in waters under their jurisdiction and establish a Multinational Task Force to develop international agreements regulating noise levels in the world's oceans.



The International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC) is formed. This coalition is represented in three continents by the European Coalition for Silent Oceans (ECSO) headed by Sigrid Luber, the North American Ocean Noise Coalition (NAONC) headed by Dr. Marsha Green and the Latin American Ocean Noise Coalition (LAONC), headed by Elsa Cabrera.

The IONC is a partnership of over 140 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world. It was created to address the need for a global approach on educating and combating human-generated ocean noise.

June - Dr. Green organized and chaired the UN working group (part of the International Ocean Noise Coalition) which attended UNICPOLOS-6. This working group had representatives from NRDC, IFAW, AWI, Seaflow, Ocean Care, Centro de Conservacion Cetacea and COMARINO. The goal of attending this meeting was to educate delegates on the issue of Ocean Noise Pollution and its impact on marine life in addition to having the issue referred to the UN General Assembly for further consideration in the fall of 2005.

July - In his 2005 report to the General Assembly on Oceans and the Law of the Sea the Secretary -General of the United Nations noted the following, "The sixth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process has proposed that the General Assembly should request further study and consideration of the effects of ocean noise on marine living resources."

The Secretary-General included a detailed paragraph on anthropogenic underwater noise in his 2005 report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and referred to ocean noise a total of 16 times in this report which can be read at

November - United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution encouraging consideration of the impact of ocean noise on living marine resources. Res_Nov_2005.htm


February - Dr. Marsha Green and Susan Millward of AWI attend a UN workshop where the issue of ocean noise was addressed. The workshop, "Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to Study Issues Related to the Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biological Diversity beyond areas of National Jurisdiction" addressed the management of marine resources on the high seas (beyond the 200 mile range from land). During this workshop ocean noise was recognized as a problem.

February - In 2003, Congress, through the Omnibus Appropriations Act directed the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) to form a committee to "share findings, survey acoustic threats to marine mammals, and develop means of reducing those threats while maintaining the oceans as a global highway of international commerce." This committee was charged with developing recommendations to the Commission for inclusion in its report to Congress.

April - Dr. Marsha Green is appointed to the ACCOBAMS working group. This group is responsible for assisting in the development of noise regulations for the protection of marine life for the Mediterranean, Black Sea and contiguous Atlantic areas.

OMI is committed to protecting our oceans and all marine life. We believe that International cooperation is the key to global success on this important issue, and we need your help to continue our work. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to support this critical international work.

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