Underwater noise caused by different anthropogenic activities present a serious threat to marine life. Particularly serious impact can be caused by recent advances of different industries, primarily oil and gas, towards prospecting and possible future extraction of hydrocarbons in the Adriatic, Ionian and Levantine seas. Repeated and long lasting seismic surveying, drilling, pile driving, construction etc. with sounds of up to 260 decibels pose a serious risk to many marine species including fish, sea turtles, Mediterranean monk seal, whales and dolphins. The impacts can go from disturbance and masking of the sound used in communication to short and long lasting hearing impairment, physical injuries and death.

Map of planned seismic surveying in Eastern Mediterranean (by OceanCare)

To address some of this issues related to negative impacts of noise in the marine environment and identify possible mitigation measure 62 participants from 17 countries came to the “Workshop on mitigating the impact of underwater noise on marine biodiversity with specific focus on seismic surveys in the south-eastern European waters in the Mediterranean Sea” held on 22. and 23. November 2017 in Split, Croatia. Participants included representatives from national authorities, DG Environment, international agreements, scientific and civil society organisations and different interest groups.

Participants of the Workshop on mitigating the impact of underwater noise on marine biodiversity in the SEE Mediterranean region (Photo: OceanCare)

Dr. Nikolina Rako Gospić gave lecture on the effects of anthropogenic noise

As regional experts in marine research and conservation, representatives of the Blue World Institute were invited to give several lectures to the workshop participants. Our specialist in bioacoustics, dr. Nikolina Rako Gospić, Director of Science of the BWI gave lecture on the “Anthropogenic noise effects on marine fauna, with special reference to seismic surveys” introducing participants to impacts of different sound frequencies and intensities on marine organisms.

Dr. Draško Holcer, president of the BWI gave lecture on “Cetacean diversity in the southeastern part of the Mediterranean” presenting information on biology and distribution of different species inhabiting SE Mediterranean that could be impacted by underwater noise. On a second day dr. Rako Gospić chaired working group on “Vulnerable species and critical habitat: reflecting on noise hot spots and species distribution in the context to planned activities”.

Dr. Draško Holcer presents his talk on Cetacean biodiversity

The working group developed several recommendations for marine conservation stakeholders aimed at assuring the proper protection of vulnerable species and their critical habitat. Dr. Peter Mackelworth, Director of Conservation and expert on humane dimension in nature conservation participated in the work of the workgroup on “Socio-economic impacts: discussing potential conflicts between hydrocarbon exploration activities and other sectors, including tourism, commercial fisheries etc.”

After the workshop, on 24. November, meeting of the regional campaigning and scientific NGO’s was organised to coordinate joint efforts aimed at better protecting and conserving the environment and vulnerable species in the SEE Mediterranean region.

The workshop was organised by OceanCare (Switzerland) and Natural Resources Defense Council (USA) supported by German Federal Environmental Foundation (Germany).

Dr. Rako Gospić and dr. Notarbartolo di Sciara moderate discussion on noise hot spots and species distribution

Workshop on mitigating the impact of underwater noise on marine biodiversity in the SEE Mediterranean region