A Push for Quieter Ships

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1502-1503
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5985.1502

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Over the past 4 years, studies at the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts have documented how human activities are ramping up the region's undersea noise—and highlighted just how difficult it may be to turn down the volume. Stellwagen's monitoring program, one of the world's most intensive, has implications well beyond the marine sanctuary. It has helped focus attention on the growing acoustic clutter created by the world's nearly 100,000 large commercial ships. Although other sources of ocean noise—including military sonar, pile drivers, and the undersea air guns that scientists and energy companies use to map the sea floor—have generated more controversy because of the risks to sea life, researchers say everyday ship traffic is arguably the sea's most pressing sound problem.