Understanding the complexity of ocean sound - specifically the impacts of man-made sound on marine life - has been a decades-long priority for BOEM and its predecessor agencies. The task is vitally important to our stakeholders, including the industries we regulate, other federal partners, the research community, and the general public. BOEM has invested more than $95 million on protected species and acoustics-related research since 1998, relying on specialists in marine biology, ecology, and acoustics to produce, evaluate, and incorporate the best available science into our management decisions. This research and BOEM’s engagement in environmental reviews has significantly improved scientific understanding of how anthropogenic noise affects marine life.
Marine acoustics issues have increased in national and international significance over the last several decades. As a result, the bureau’s studies and environmental risk assessment work have expanded to consider a wider variety of marine species, such as marine mammals, turtles, fishes, and invertebrates, as well as more sound sources. Potentially impactful sound sources are used across BOEM’s programs and at all stages of development, including:
- Seismic surveys
- Site assessments for offshore wind
- Pile driving
- Vessel and helicopter operation
- Explosive removal of platforms
Understanding the science of marine acoustics and its policy applications requires highly specialized knowledge and experience in physics and bioacoustics (how animals use and are affected by sound). To answer the call, BOEM launched the Center for Marine Acoustics (CMA) in 2020 to build its expertise, strengthening the Bureau’s role in managing and understanding underwater sound. The CMA provides expertise and leadership to drive best practices, expand research on underwater sound, seek policy improvements, and improve messaging related to marine acoustic issues. We will push for innovation while championing consistency, high scientific rigor, and efficiency where needed. The CMA’s products and services will support environmental assessment work across all of BOEM’s program areas. The CMA will work hand in hand with BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program to identify and fill priority data gaps to improve BOEM’s decision-making. We will partner strategically with external organizations to achieve what cannot be done alone. The Center establishes BOEM as a driving force within the regulatory community, positioning BOEM as a recognized leader on marine acoustics within the federal government and internationally.