Effects of underwater noise

in the marine environment

Man-made underwater noise in the oceans is ever increasing and has been the focus of increasing attention during the last decade in connection with impact assessments for offshore wind farms, sonars, shipping, construction works and other noisy offshore activities. This course will give a fundamental introduction to the subject and is aimed at regulators, consultants, advisors, NGOs and others working with assessing and regulating effects of underwater noise on the marine environment.

Course description

Both in Europe and abroad, there is an increasing interest in how underwater noise affects the marine environment. A primary driver in this development has been the expansion of offshore wind energy, with increasing demands from regulators to the companies for inclusion of underwater noise in impact assessments and regulation of noise emissions during construction. Other central activities in this development are navy sonars and oil and gas exploration. Commercial companies, on the other hand, have raised legitimate demands for consistent regulation of the area, based on solid scientific results. The latest development in the area has been the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which requires the EU member-states to monitor underwater noise and assess its impact on environmental status of the regional seas.

All these activities place increasing and new demands on regulators, companies, consultants and NGOs whose employees must relate to a range of new terminologies and concepts. A major challenge is that the area is a border discipline between physics (underwater acoustics, oceanography) and biology (auditory physiology, behavioural ecology, population biology).

The course aims at providing a fundamental understanding of the effects of underwater noise: what are the physical reasons behind the fact that regulation of underwater noise is fundamentally different from regulation of community noise? And why are marine organisms much more vulnerable to noise than terrestrial animals?

Areas of focus:

·         Introduction to underwater acoustics

·         Methods for analysis of underwater sound

·         Hearing in marine organisms

·         Man-made noise sources

·         Hearing damage

·         Effects on behaviour

·         Mitigation measures

·         Recommendations and regulations


The aim is to provide the course participants with basic knowledge of underwater sound and hearing in marine organisms, enabling them to assess effects of noise on the organisms. It is the goal that the participants after completion of the course have obtained sufficient qualifications to understand the fundamental requirements of regulations and recommendations and are able to enter into qualified discussions with authorities, consultants, companies and the public on the issue of underwater noise.

Course form

The course will consist of a mixture of short lectures and discussions in plenum. Discussions will be based on case studies and examples. It will be possible to discuss specific cases requested by the participants in advance. A collection of text material will be provided and participants are expected to have acquainted themselves with this material prior to the course.

Target audience

The course is designed for anyone who through their work in the public, private or NGO field is working with, or has an interest in, underwater noise and its effects on the marine habitats. The course will provide an introduction to the issues related to underwater noise and to a lesser extent to the actual work involved in performing impact assessments. There are no minimum requirements regarding qualifications or prior experience, but we expect that all participants are currently involved in issues relating to underwater noise or expect to be so in the near future.


Senior scientist Dr. Jakob Tougaard, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, has a solid background in research in bioacoustics and auditory physiology in marine mammals and has during the past 15 years been an active participant in national and international discussions related to effects of noise on marine mammals and its regulation.