The development of sustainable tidal power generation schemes is contingent upon demonstrating the environmental compatibility of this technology. Among the environmental uncertainties is the effect that the noise generated by tidal turbines might have on fish and marine mammals. Consequently, it is desirable to better understand these interactions through pilot‐scale monitoring before commercialscale deployments are undertaken. Effective monitoring plans must account for the extent of noise and the potential for this noise to cause detectable changes. This study presents a case study for a proposed pilot project that synthesizes available measurements of turbine noise and underwater ambient noise to evaluate the effectiveness of studies to characterize turbine noise and the marine mammal response to this noise. Because both turbine noise and ambient noise vary in time, the description is probabilistic. The time distribution of turbine noise is derived from measurements of a similar tidal turbine and convolved with the time distribution of ambient noise in the proposed project area. Results suggest that characterizing turbine noise and studying marine mammal responsiveness at this location will be challenging due to existing ambient noise associated with high vessel traffic density and sediment transport. The case study provides instructive guidance for high‐priority data needs and an analysis framework for evaluating acoustic effects of tidal energy projects.