Summary of UNICPOLOS-7

June 12-15, 2006



Representatives from the International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC) attended the seventh meeting of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations (UNICPOLOS-7) June 12-15, 2006.  A report of that meeting is provided below.


Previous Actions:


  • The Coalition had raised the issue of underwater noise pollution at the sixth meeting of UNICPOLOS in June 2005.

  • After intense negotiations in the fall of 2005, the General Assembly passed Resolution 60/30 that "Encourages further studies and consideration of the impacts of ocean noise on marine living resources". 

  • In July, 2005 the U.N. Secretary General prominently included the problem of ocean noise in his report to the General Assembly on issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  The report lists anthropogenic noise as one of five "current major threats to some populations of whales and other cetaceans", and also includes noise as one of the ten "main current and foreseeable impacts on marine biodiversity" on the high seas.



IONC Objectives for UNICPOLOS-7:


Because ocean noise is a form of transboundary pollution that increasingly threatens whales, dolphins, fish and many other species, we established our objectives for the United Nations and its Member States as the following:


  • Recognize, in line with the IWC, IUCN, the European Parliament, ASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS and the Secretary General, that anthropogenic ocean noise may have significant consequences for marine biodiversity and would benefit from an integrated ecosystems approach to ocean management;

  • Heed the call of the Secretary General to better assess the impacts of underwater noise on acoustically sensitive marine species, including both fish and cetaceans, and to consider noise abatement strategies;

  • Urge States, the General Assembly, UN Oceans and relevant international and national organizations to take all measures necessary to prevent, reduce and control the generation of harmful undersea noise, focusing especially on removing or minimizing harmful anthropogenic noise within MPAs and in important marine mammal and fish habitat, and on establishing new MPAs to protect marine life from the cumulative and synergistic effects of noise and other stressors; and

  • Apply the Precautionary Principle with regard to the marine environment to significantly reduce, mitigate or cease activities resulting in the production of intense underwater noise until effective guidelines are developed.



IONC Actions Taken at UNICPOLOS 7:


The Coalition presented the program, "Ocean Noise and the Marine Ecosystem: Impacts and Solutions" as a side event. The purpose of this program was to discuss the management and mitigation of ocean noise within an ecosystem based approach.  The program consisted of the short film, "Deadly Sounds in the Silent World II" with an introduction by Pierce Brosnan and presentations by several members of the coalition on the scientific and legal aspects of ocean noise pollution as well as possible mitigation measures including marine protected areas.


UNICPOLOS 7 Meeting Results:


Throughout the week States were given the opportunity in informal evening sessions to initially respond to the Co-Chairpersons' Proposed Draft Elements Report based on discussions in each day's plenary. The Co-Chairs' Elements Report sets agenda items for negotiating the Oceans Resolution language prior to the General Assembly meeting in the fall.


The Draft Elements Report initially included the following section on ocean noise:


8. It was proposed that the General Assembly call on States to recognize that improved application of an ecosystem approach will require, inter alia


c) targeted action to address root causes that can undermine the conservation and integrity of marine ecosystems, including overfishing, IUU fishing, by-catch of threatened species, land-based and sea-based pollution, man-induced climate change, noise pollution, dumping, physical destruction and degradation of habitats and invasive species



Consensus was not reached hence, noise pollution was bracketed for the full plenary to resolve on Friday.



Full Plenary Meeting:


The overwhelming majority of countries strongly supported including noise pollution and the need to address it in the Co-chairs' report.  However two countries tried to remove the ocean noise issue and its impacts on the marine ecosystem from the report.  However, consensus was finally reached by moving the issue of noise pollution to a new section of the document and by rewording the text to read "Understanding through increased research and consideration of the impacts of underwater noise on marine ecosystems."





IONC considers it important that ocean noise remained in the document in order to keep the issue under active discussions during the upcoming General Assembly negotiations when Member States draft the annual Oceans Resolution.


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