Delivering information to support stewardship of the North Sea soundscape

A policy brief from the Interreg North Sea Region Jomopans project

In light of the shift to a sustainable blue economy, underwater noise is a pollutant that cannot be ignored and must be addressed through stewardship of the underwater soundscape. This requires policy measures to manage sound in cooperation between the Exclusive Economic Zones of the North Sea and incentivise the deployment of up-to-date technological solutions to reduce noise introduced by economic activities.
Policy context
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is instrumental for the EU to protect the marine environment and first acknowledged underwater noise as a pollutant. It aims to mitigate impacts on marine species from underwater noise and perturbations of soundscapes. The MSFD interacts with other international agreements that address underwater noise, like OSPAR (Regional Sea Convention).
In JOMOPANS, eleven institutes from seven countries have worked four years together on the monitoring of ambient noise. 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. 
Transnational cooperation
Through harmonisation with past, on-going and new projects, JOMOPANS has been inspired to develop a monitoring programme with broad utility and replicability. Moreover, the project has contributed to the development of coherent measurements and modelling standards.
Key lessons
The Jomopans approach to ambient noise monitoring showed that transnational co-operation is essential to gain insight in the soundscape. A combination of numerical modelling and field measurements quantified the ambient sound in the North Sea. This work is part of the global efforts to assess and manage underwater noise.
Next steps
JOMOPANS explored new ways to assess ambient noise and next steps are now being taken. The EU is developing threshold values for underwater noise and OSPAR will make a Regional Action Plan to manage underwater noise in the OSPAR region. At national level technological ad operational measures are being prepared to mitigate the effects of noise from human activities at sea. Further improvement of soundscape modelling and measurements is needed as well as the technology to reduce noise. The effects of underwater noise on marine life needs to be investigated thoroughly.
In total, eleven institutions from countries around the North Sea participate in the JOMOPANS project. Rijkswaterstaat from the Netherlands is the lead partner.
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