The Interreg North Sea Region Programme supports transnational cooperation to tackle common challenges in and around the North Sea basin. A Joint Monitoring Programme for Ambient Noise in the North Sea (JOMOPANS) profits from transnational cooperation, and as such has been co-funded by Interreg. In JOMOPANS, eleven institutes from seven countries have worked four years together on the monitoring of ambient noise in the North Sea. Through its transnational approach, the project has had a real impact on the implementation of the MSFD and OSPAR Strategy for Ambient Noise Monitoring. It provided implementation support in different ways.

Operationalising a joint monitoring programme
JOMOPANS has presented a proposal to OSPAR's EIHA (Environmental Impact of Human Activities) Committee on a joint monitoring programme for the North Sea. The various elements of joint monitoring developed and used by JOMOPANS form the foundation for the OSPAR joint monitoring programme. An Implementation Plan, which accompanies the proposal, suggests how these elements can be transferred from a typical project environment (that is: JOMOPANS) to an environment of operational monitoring under the auspices of OSPAR. This requires a different type of organisation that is compatible with the existing monitoring activities of the North Sea countries. Currently, ICG-Noise (Intersessional Correspondence Group on Underwater Noise) is tasked with the implementation of the OSPAR Strategy for Ambient Noise Monitoring. It has, therefore, been agreed to form a sub-group under ICG-Noise to co-ordinate the OSPAR joint monitoring programme. This sub-group comprises the Contracting Parties for the North Sea Region (region II), together with invited experts. It will be extended to other OSPAR Regions and monitoring programmes will be implemented over there.

Championing the development of an assessment method 
The MSFD and OSPAR strategy require that ambient noise assessments are made against an indicator that reflects the development towards “good environmental status”. In order to support this, Jomopans has championed the development of an assessment method for ambient noise. This assessment method is based on OSPAR’s stepwise approach of an ambient sound assessment framework. The Jomopans team has further refined the steps of the earlier framework to set up an ambient sound indicator, which applies for the whole OSPAR region. The OSPAR assessment framework fits into the more general framework, which is under development by TG Noise. In this respect, the proposed steps and metrics can be used for both the OSPAR Quality Status Report in 2023 and the MSFD Progress Report of descriptor D11C2 (continuous noise)
Informing the development of MSFD Threshold Values
TG Noise has developed a framework for assessment of continuous noise. The JOMOPANS framework was an important building block of this TG Noise framework. The next step is to develop Threshold Values for MSFD descriptor D11C2 (continuous noise). JOMOPANS data and maps are used as a use case for the threshold values under development. The choices of the spatial and temporal extent of continuous noise for such a threshold value are tested on the JOMOPANS maps. TG Noise plans to publish an advice at the end of 2022.


Delivering soundscape maps to policy makers
JOMOPANS has monitored underwater sound in the North Sea by producing monthly maps of depth-averaged sound pressure levels to which the various marine animals are exposed. These maps are now available and give a detailed insight in the noise distribution on the North Sea. A web-based tool (the so-called GES tool) has been developed to display and analyse these maps. The GES tool enables policy makers to assess spatiotemporal variation in the noise produced by ships. The spatio-temporal variation is handled by a pressure function, which describes how often and how widely ship noise dominates over natural ambient noise. These curves provide a condensed summary of the ship contribution to noise in the assessment area and allows for comparisons among subareas and frequency bands. Furthermore, the tool allows the noise metrics to be combined with information about animal distribution in assessment of the degree to which GES has been achieved. The GES tool outputs can be used by policy makers to underpin policy and regulatory decisions, which aim to reduce the impacts of underwater noise pollution.
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