Underwater noise pollution is becoming globally recognised as a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems and the resources they provide. The effects of noise pollution extend from blue whales to zooplankton, impacting threatened species and affecting key industries including fisheries and ecotourism. In response, policymakers in some jurisdictions have made substantive high-level commitments to address noise pollution, however the implementation of noise reduction measures (noise abatement) remains limited. To support the development of effective noise management policies, this paper explores the economic and policy context to noise abatement in three major noise-generating industries: shipping, offshore windfarm construction, and seismic surveying for oil and gas. In each case, tractable policy options are identified which make considered use of command-and-control and incentive-based measures in light of the available noise abatement methods. Drawing on instructive examples from terrestrial noise management and other sectors, it is concluded that such measures offer the most promising long-term solution to deliver existing and future policy commitments to manage cumulative levels of underwater noise pollution.
- Underwater noise is becoming recognised as a significant pollutant globally.
- Noise abatement measures (reducing noise emitted at source) are still scarce.
- Significant noise-emitting industries include shipping, offshore wind, oil and gas.
- Viable policy options for noise abatement are available.
- Noise abatement can reduce cumulative pressure on aquatic ecosystems.