Science Protecting Nature

Dr. Marsha Green, representing OMI and the International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC), attended the 14th meeting of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (May 27-31, 2014). The topic at the conference was the oceans and global food security. Global food security is one of IONC's concerns because twenty percent of the world's protein nourishment comes from seafood. Intense underwater noise pollution has been shown to decrease commercial fish catch rates by 40% to 80%, which affects food supply.

In the opening statement IONC noted their disappointment that the FAO had not initiated research to further assess the impact of noise from air guns used for oil and gas exploration on fish catch rates. The loudness of these air guns, which go off every 10 seconds during surveys, is equivalent to the sound of a NASA rocket taking off. In 2010 the UN General Assembly encouraged the FAO to initiate studies on the link between ocean noise, decreased fish catch rates and their socioeconomic impact.

Dr. Green asked Dr. Susan Singh-Renton, the Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and a panelist at the meeting, if CRFM would work with the FAO to address the request of the General Assembly to study the relationship between ocean noise and fish catch rates.

Dr. Renton noted our request and replied that CRFM can work with the FAO to expedite this important research. This is a significant step forward at protecting global food security. It also is a good example of the importance of OMI's "Science Protecting Nature" mandate.

We need more research to help us understand the effect of the technology on fish and the global food supply.