The scientific community now recognizes that global commercial shipping noise poses a significant threat to marine mammals, particularly to vulnerable populations of beluga whales and narwhals. To address the issue of underwater noise from ships, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) developed voluntary ship noise guidelines in 2014 (Guidelines for the Reduction of Underwater Noise from Commercial Shipping to Address Adverse Impacts on Marine Life). To date, there has been little to no implementation of these guidelines.
Necessary updates to the guidelines that include provisions for mandatory speed reduction measures and potential noise reduction targets implemented at the ship design and construction phase are essential in advancing international efforts to reduce shipping noise by building on IMO’s previous guidelines. The goal of EIA’s advocacy efforts at the IMO is to promote member-state adoption of binding international regulations on ship-based underwater noise reductions, which is particularly critical within Arctic waters where the current marine soundscape is largely quiet in terms of a lack of continual presence of vessel noise compared to other more industrialized areas of ocean.