The international oil and gas industry recognizes there is increased interest by multiple stakeholder groups on the effects of anthropogenic sound in the marine environment. This interest is focused on, but not limited to seismic surveying. While little to no scientific evidence exist associating seismic surveys with significant adverse impacts on marine animal populations, gaps in knowledge increase the uncertainty in identifying key risks that can be adequately mitigated.

Consequently, the regulatory community often imposes very precautions and often impracticable restrictions on seismic surveys to prevent or mitigate perceived impacts. With the implementation of such restrictions, the cost of data acquisition can ultimately triple with no more than an incremental benefit to the receiving environment. To this end, the Joint Industry Program on Sound and Marine Life (JIP) has implemented a robust research and monitoring program to compile and/or acquire scientific information to fill gaps in knowledge concerning the impacts of anthropogenic sound on marine life. The projects, conducted by independent research entities, are focused on three key areas: 1) inventory the various sounds introduced to the water by the oil and gas industry (source); 2) understand the propagation of sound in the marine environment (pathway); and 3) identify any potential physical or physiological impacts on marine life (receiver).

The JIP has funded approximately 70 research projects with the overarching goal of understanding the environmental risks (exposure and consequences or effects) associated with offshore Exploration and Production (E&P) operations. Improved scientific knowledge surrounding the consequences of exposure to sound will help inform risk assessments conducted by industry project teams, as well as inform the scientific community and regulators about the potential environmental effects of these operations. The availability of these project data should result in permit decisions by regulators that are supported by sound science with appropriate mitigation and monitoring procedures. Examples of representative projects being sponsored by the JIP are described in this paper.

Updated information on the progress of the JIP founded research can be found at www.soundandmarinelife.org

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