NOAA Researchers are Building a National Ocean Listening Network

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center recently put five powerful recording instruments along the Northeast continental shelf break to listen to the sounds made by whales, dolphins and other marine species and to monitor ocean noise in general. It’s part of a national effort to establish a network to monitor long-term changes in just how noisy the ocean is.

By establishing a long-term NOAA-operated network of noise reference stations throughout the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, roughly up to 200 miles offshore, NOAA can monitor long-term changes and trends in the underwater ambient sound field from all sources, including human activity and animals that live in these waters.

Each station is deployed for one-to-two years before being recovered and redeployed. The data collected from the stations will provide a baseline for what ocean sound levels are now, how they are changing over time, and how human activities are impacting marine life.
Ten noise reference stations equipped with low frequency passive acoustic recorders developed by NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory have been operating in U.S. waters since March 2014. There are three such buoys off the U.S. East Coast: one in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, one off Georges Bank between the New England Seamounts, and one off Florida on Blake Plateau.

Each station includes a set of standardized battery-powered instruments called hydrophones that listen for noise from a variety of sources. More noise reference stations are being deployed in select locations by the National Park Service, including one in the Caribbean.

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