United Nations
A commitment to reduce ocean noise pollution
by Wildlife Conservation Society (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
Ocean noise pollution from human industrial activities can negatively impact marine life in many ways. Noise from various sources can interfere with communication, social functions, foraging, predator detections and degrade marine ecosystems. Noise has been generally increasing since the advent of powered marine transportation. Given that most human noise in the ocean is incidental in nature, quieting technologies are a logical approach to reduce negative impacts. Many of these modifications have little or no negative impact on industrial activities.

Numerous measures have already been put in place, including voluntary vessel-quieting guidelines within the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Additionally, mitigation strategies related to reducing noise and ship strikes have been implemented in several jurisdictions. However, additional and sustained international collaboration and partnerships, leading to specific actions, are needed to ensure a long-term and sustained reduction of the impacts on marine life of noise pollution generated by industrial activity, particularly shipping and energy exploration.

The Partners will establish a multi-stakeholder Working Group to agree on mitigation actions (technologies, operational management measures, area- and species-specific measures) that businesses could implement in order to minimize ocean noise emissions. Given the cross-sectoral nature of the shipping industry, breadth of noise from other sources (e.g., offshore energy exploration, military) and the global scale of this issue, collaboration and constructive dialog among diverse industry, scientific, government and non-governmental organizations will continue to be critical, as clearly demonstrated within the IMO vessel-quieting guideline development.

The main milestones in the process will be:

Situation analysis: this phase will generate an inventory of the primary noise sources, their geographical distribution, key industry actors, and current and best practices. This analysis will support the stakeholder analysis which will guide the membership of the Working Group originally established at the February 2017 UN Prep. Meeting, so that it will be fully representative (i.e., industry, scientific, regulatory, and conservation stakeholders). A decision-making and governance system for the process will be established by the partners early-on in the process.

Development of commitments: the WG will develop the science-based commitments, with all parties able to share their views, values and needs. The aim is to develop a set of scientifically rigorous, cost-effective and outcome-focused commitments, the implementation of which can be objectively measured. These will include noise reduction targets for individual noise sources (e.g., 3 dB reduction compared to nominal baseline levels per ship class in 5 years and another 3 dB the next 5 years).

Launch the commitments: Commitments will be made by industry and government participants on a rolling basis, with updates made periodically at intergovernmental fora, including at the 2018 UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and at the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Implement the commitments: Promote the Commitments among industry players and relevant government agencies and track implementation through a publicly accessible platform. By the end of 2020 and again in 2025, industry, government, scientists and NGOs who have contributed.to the process will come together to share experiences and assess the progress made.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
April 2018
The Working Group is formed; Funding Proposal Developed to support activities.
December 2020
Public reporting platform for industry commitments goes live.
February 2018
Situation analysis is completed.
September 20202
Commitments are finalised and submitted to the IUCN World Conservation Congress for endorsement as an IUCN Resolution.
Staff / Technical expertise
In kind staff expertise
Basic information
Time-frame: June 2017 - December 2025
Wildlife Conservation Society (Non-governmental organization) International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) International Fund for Animal Welfare (Non-governmental organization) Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Southall Environmental Associates (Private Sector) Douglas P. Nowacek, PhD, Duke University, Scientific Community Member Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Marine environment Industry (oil and gas, commercial shipping) Government (military) Private sector (tourism)
Contact information
Howard Rosenbaum, Director, Ocean Giants Program, WCS, hrosenbaum@wcs.org,
Other SDGs
United Nations