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WCC 2020 Res 113 - Progress Report

General information
IUCN Constituencies implementing this Resolution
IUCN Members: 
Fisheries and Oceans Canada ( DFO ) / Canada
Coalition Clean Baltic ( CCB ) / Sweden
World Wide Fund for Nature - International ( WWF ) / Switzerland
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce ( NOAA ) / United States of America
International Fund for Animal Welfare ( IFAW ) / United States of America
Wildlife Conservation Society ( WCS ) / United States of America
IUCN Commissions: 
IUCN Species Survival Commission 2021-2025 (SSC)
IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas 2021-2025 (WCPA)
IUCN Secretariat: 
Other non-IUCN related organisations: 
IMO, OceanCare, Global Alliance for Managing Ocean Noise (GAMEON), Duke University, Southall Environmental Associates and others
Indicate which actions have been carried out to implement this Resolution : 
Convene stakeholders/Networking
Education/Communication/Raising awareness
Policy influencing/advocacy
Scientific/technical activities
Describe the results/achievements of the actions taken: 
2022 highlights include:
• Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB) has been active mobilising stakeholders and influencing policy in the Baltic sea region, particularly, providing underwater noise inputs to the Baltic Sea Action Plan of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), through joint NGO Baltic Shadow Plan 2020, as well as organizing an online workshop for NGOs from 8 countries that has been very useful and good basis for further joint work (and a useful example to other regions).
• International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has also been actively engaged in the IMO processes, including conducting outreach to governments to support and contribute to the revision of the 2014 IMO Guidelines for the Reduction of Underwater Noise from Commercial Shipping to Address Adverse Impacts on Marine Life (circular MEPC.1/Circ.833).
• The revision of the IMO guidelines have been added to the IMO work programme under the leadership of the Government of Canada, who is now working with international partners at IMO to revise the guidelines (an action it has also registered as an SDG14 Voluntary Commitment 2022-2023, #OceanAction48592). The objective is to review and propose revisions to the IMO guidelines on the reduction of underwater noise from marine shipping to improve their effectiveness and reflect current science and knowledge. Work output also includes a commitment to propose next steps on actions needed to reduce underwater noise from vessel traffic. The work has started in September 2022 and expected to be completed by January 2023. Canada is leading the Correspondence Group.
• IFAW is also contributing to the ongoing revision of these guidelines and participating and providing input through the sub-committee on Ship Design & Construction (SDC) as members of the Underwater Radiated Noise (URN) Correspondence Group.
• Another relevant SDG14 Voluntary Commitment to reduce ocean noise pollution 2017-2025 (#OceanAction41469) has been championed by WCS, IUCN, IFAW, NRDC, Southall Environmental Associates Inc, Dr Douglas P.Nowacek from Duke University (an IUCN SSC Member) and SPREP. This has seen the establishment of the Global Alliance for Managing Ocean Noise (GAMEON) and in-depth situation analysis by WCS and Southall Environmental Associates Inc/University of California-Santa Cruz on “International policy, recommendations, actions and mitigation efforts of anthropogenic underwater noise” (Chou et al., 2021) that shall contribute to increasing awareness on underwater noise, and mitigation and management measures that are being considered to address the issue. In March 2022, GAMEON also run workshop on practical approaches for reducing ocean noise associated with offshore renewable energy development.
• In February 2022, WWF with Oregon State University and University of California, Santa Cruz published a comprehensive report “Protecting Blue Corridors, Challenges and Solutions for Migratory Whales Navigating International and National Seas” (that includes ocean noise issues).
• In May 2022, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) released its Technical Series #99 “Review of the Impacts of Anthropogenic Underwater Noise on Marine Biodiversity and Approaches to Manage and Mitigate them” (which is built on previous work under CBD on underwater noise and includes input from IUCN Secretariat, its Members / Commissions and partners and a chapter on 2016 IUCN guidelines for managing environmental risk associated with geophysical and other imaging surveys).
• A NOAA team from multiple regions and offices has worked together to develop an Ocean Noise Strategy to guide the agency towards more effective and comprehensive understanding and management of ocean noise impacts on marine life in the years 2016 to 2026.
• In October 2022, at an event within the European Parliament, IFAW published a report showcasing the conclusions of an economic analysis conducted by the independent research firm CE Delft, on the impacts of a speed reduction limit to 75% of design speed for all vessels navigating in European waters. This proposal, called “Blue Speeds”, represents a simple and effective way to reduce underwater noise from vessels, among other benefits.
• IUCN Secretariat, Members, Commission experts and partners have also raised attention of the Parties to international policy processes on the issues highlighted in this resolution (e.g. CBD, UN Ocean Conference/SDG14, BBNJ and others) and developing an issue brief.
• In 2022, IUCN Council and Commissions have initiated the discussion on the establishment of an expert group and guidance on the application of a precautionary principle as called for by the resolution, with the scope and roles to be further specified and agreed as soon as possible.
• Worth noting is also the work of OceanCare, a Swiss-based NGO (that collaborates with a number of IUCN Members such as IFAW, WWF and Commission experts), who has been particularly active on ocean noise and shipping-related issues, including raising awareness at the international policy fora and championing a new PSSA in the Mediterranean that is now backed by several regional governments and aims to protect cetaceans from underwater noise and ship strikes in the Mediterranean Cetacean Migration Corridor. OceanCare experience is very relevant and useful example in the context of advancing the work on this resolution.

2023 highlights included:

(1) On the request to the IUCN Council to establish an Inter-Commission Panel of Experts to seek an integrated approach to abating anthropogenic underwater noise pollution, in cooperation with other entities:
• Given it has not been possible to clarify the indented scope with original proponents, the Council and Commissions considered this request at the PPC meeting in January 2023 and recommended to re-conceive the Inter-Commission Panel of Experts to include members who can synthesise the existing guidelines, recommendations and other voluntary and legal measures and recommend a legal structure for how to integrate these measures to increase their implementation and decrease the impact of anthropogenic noise across the marine environment (instead of to seek an integrated approach to abating anthropogenic underwater noise pollution, in cooperation with other entities more broadly, recognizing that across the complex landscape of various sectors there is already significant noise mitigation progress that has been adopted and/or endorsed in various MEAs and Regulatory regimes. WCPA and SSC are mandated to develop the TOR.

(2) On the request to WCPA to make recommendations promoting a precautionary approach on ways to reduce and limit anthropogenic underwater noise in MPAs, PSSAs and IMMAs:

• WCPA requested funding be secured to contract one or two appropriately qualified researchers to develop recommendations for limiting marine noise impact in MPAs, PSSAs, and IMMAs. WCPA and SSC are mandated to develop the TOR, should resources be secured.

(3) On the revision of the 2014 IMO guidelines on reducing noise from shipping:

• In December 2022, FOEI, WWF, IFAW, Pacific Environment and CSC submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) their comments to the IMO concerning the review of the 2014 Guidelines for the Reduction of Underwater Noise from Ships and identification of next steps.

• The revision of the guidelines was finalised in January 2023 during the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 9), however, IMO did not discuss next steps, which the Coalition of Clean Arctic stated in a press release should have included a path forward to the development of compulsory measures to reduce underwater noise and warned that further delay in the development of an action program clearly setting out next steps – including compulsory measures – will prevent significant action that would decrease vessel noise in our oceans. The Coalition – that includes 20 NGOs, including IUCN Member WWF – also stressed that “a survey of the commercial shipping industry found that very few ships utilised the 2014 guidelines, and stated the greatest barrier to uptake was the fact that they are only recommendatory in nature. During SDC 8 in January 2022, a working group confirmed these findings when it agreed that voluntary guidance, as opposed to regulations, was a key barrier limiting uptake of the guidelines”.
• The draft guidelines were developed by a correspondence group with further work completed by a working group which met during the Sub-Committee session. The correspondence group was re-established, to report back to SDC 10 in January 2024, to address the remaining work under the agenda item. It was, in particular, tasked with revising a flowchart on the URN Noise Management Planning process to reflect the Revised Guidelines, and the underwater noise management plan included in appendix 3, to be used as a tool for raising awareness. The group will also finalize and prioritize the provisional list of suggested next steps to further prevent and reduce underwater radiated noise from ships. The Sub-Committee agreed a work plan which envisages, among other things, identifying ways to implement the Revised Guidelines and increase awareness and uptake; organizing an expert workshop on potential co-benefits and trade-offs that may exist between the reduction of underwater radiated noise from ships and energy efficiency; and developing a plan of action for further work.
• In July 2023, the 80th session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) approved revised Guidelines for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping to address adverse impacts on marine life. The guidelines took effect from 1 August 2023. Issued as a circular, the guidelines recognize that commercial shipping is one of the main contributors to underwater radiated noise (URN) which has adverse effects on critical life functions for a wide range of marine life, including marine mammals, fish and invertebrate species, upon which many coastal Indigenous communities depend for their food, livelihoods and cultures. The MEPC also approved the dissemination of an MEPC circular on Guidelines for underwater radiated noise reduction in Inuit Nunaat and the Arctic, developed by the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). WWF also added that, given that the underwater noise from shipping is doubling in the world’s oceans each decade, WWF wants to see strong, mandatory regulations on underwater noise, including special regulations for the Arctic marine environment, which is particularly sensitive to underwater noise.

What challenges/obstacles have been encountered in the implementation of this Resolution and how were they overcome : 
• Even though underwater noise is recognised as a significant problem and there is increasing body of policy and management documents available, concrete actions to reduce it are still scarce (as reported by IUCN Members, e.g. in the Baltic sea region). Among the particular challenges is the lack of awareness of the underwater noise issues (among other more “visible” types of marine pollution) and greater stakeholder collaboration. A good example is that of the Coalition Clean Baltic through workshops to facilitate collaboration and Ocean Care, among others.
• Voluntary nature of the IMO guidelines. Finding consensus amongst delegations and stakeholders around effective implementation of of the IMO guidelines and which measures should be mandated to reduce underwater noise form the shipping industry will be key.
• Securing resources to support various activities (beyond in-kind contribution of technical expertise and knowledge).
• Need to clarify and re-conceive the scope/role of the proposed expert panel in the context of the implementation of this resolution.
Briefly describe what future actions are needed for the implementation of this Resolution: 
• Following the revision of the IMO guidelines, focus on what can be achieved as part of the ‘next steps’ process in the review, including identification of the specific elements that should be made mandatory to ensure widespread uptake and implementation (at least IFAW, WWF and other IUCN Members active in this area and encourage engagement from other parties).
• Overall, increasing knowledge on the underwater noise challenges and possible mitigation measures and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders;
• Finalize/re-conceive the IUCN global issue brief or other most suitable form of communication / brief with input from the Commissions and interested Members as soon as possible, based on the latest developments and needs in the context of the implementation of this resolution;
• Explore opportunities for strengthened institutional engagement between IUCN components and IMO in the context of the implementation of this resolution and associated fundraising – as feasible.
Are these actions planned for yet: 
Status of implementation
Status of implementation for this Resolution: 
On-going: implementation consisting of repetitive, recurrent action (attending meetings, reporting, etc.)
Additional information