The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published its final new “Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap.” According to NOAA:
“Offices across NOAA have collaborated to develop an agency-wide Ocean Noise Strategy, which seeks to ensure that NOAA is more comprehensively addressing noise impacts to aquatic species and their habitat over the next 10 years.
The Roadmap is intended to serve as a high-level guide, rather than a prescriptive listing of program-level actions. The document summarizes the status of the science to support the Ocean Noise Strategy’s goals, details relevant NOAA management and science capacities, and recommends cross-agency actions that could be taken to achieve more comprehensive management of noise impacts. Fundamentally, the Roadmap serves as an organizing tool to rally the multiple NOAA offices that address ocean noise impacts around a more integrated and comprehensive approach. A series of key goals and recommendations are presented that would enhance NOAA’s ability to manage both species and the places they inhabit in the context of a changing acoustic environment.”
The final Roadmap includes NOAA’s responses to comments filed on its draft Roadmap. The following is NOAA’s response to comments on the relationship between NOAA’s Roadmap and NOAA’s “Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing”:
“ACOUSTIC GUIDANCE AND THRESHOLDS Many commenters highlighted interests in the relationship between the Strategy’s Roadmap and NMFS’s expected release of the Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing, which is now final (August, 2016). The Technical Guidance is listed in the Roadmap (Chapter 1) as an example of the type of science-based, transparently developed, tool that will be helpful for noise impact assessment and decision-making. Several commenters commented on the importance of precautionary criteria based on the best available science, and noted their particular interest in future phases of this work, to address behavioral impact assessments for marine mammals and managed fish species or species complexes. The Roadmap notes (Chapter 2) that thresholds should be viewed with caution. One submission further shared their views based on a long history of criteria development in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, suggesting that ‘thresholds can offer a distorted impression of the action of noise (no effect below, total effect above), and they create powerful incentives to bias results to assign exposures just below the management threshold. A dose-response approach, as mentioned [in the Roadmap], which assigns a non-decreasing probability of take with increasing noise exposure, removes both kinds of distortions.’ NOAA appreciates these concerns and intends to consider them in the development of behavioral harassment guidance for marine mammals as well as the implementation of the new Acoustic Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing.