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Center for Marine Acoustics

A Trusted Voice on Marine Acoustics Issues



The ocean is vast and full of sounds. For many species, relying on visual cues is not enough for survival. Ocean species, such as marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and invertebrates, often listen to and process acoustic cues to help them survive – to find food, avoid danger and communicate with each other across hundreds and even thousands of miles. 

People have also harnessed sound to help them understand the ocean environment and its resources. We use geophysical surveys to search for hydrocarbons, site wind facilities and study geological faults and predict earthquakes. Naval sonars strengthen national security and protect us from enemy threats. We also make sound incidentally through activities such as commercial shipping and fishing, recreational boating and sand mining. 

When these anthropogenic (human-generated) sounds are unwanted, they are generally referred to as noise. Current science shows us that sound may adversely impact marine life. Some sounds interfere with communication between animals and interrupt important biological behaviors (courtship, nursing, feeding and migration).  

In more extreme instances, exposures to sounds at high levels or for extended periods of time can lead to physiological effects, including hearing loss or mortality. The impacts to marine life are challenging to predict because they depend upon the acoustic qualities of the sound source, the oceanographic conditions in which the sound is produced and the behavioral context in which the animal receives the sound. 


BOEM and Marine Acoustics

Since 1998, BOEM has invested more than $95 million on protected species and acoustics related research.


New! Guidelines for Acoustic Modeling and Sound Field Measurements for Pile-Driving now available.

Science for understanding and managing marine sound has been a decades-long priority for BOEM and its predecessor agencies, including work to characterize human-produced sound and address its impacts. The task is vitally important to our stakeholders, including federal partners, the industries we regulate, the research community, environmental NGOs and the general public.

We have 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.

Answering the Call: BOEM’s Center for Marine Acoustics

Fast, Flexible and Forward Thinking

“The Center for Marine Acoustics will create a streamlined approach to BOEM’s acoustic studies and modeling efforts. It will enable us to study sound source impacts and develop customized underwater acoustic impact models as needed to inform our decision-making. With the Center in place, BOEM will be fast, flexible and forward-thinking on marine acoustics issues.”

-- Dr. Jill Lewandowski,
BOEM Environmental Assessment Division Chief

BOEM’s Center for Marine Acoustics (CMA or the Center) is an initiative designed to strengthen the bureau’s role as a driving force within the regulatory community on sound in the marine environment. It concentrates BOEM’s marine acoustics expertise, leading-edge knowledge and resources to attain and sustain world-class performance and value.

Staffed by highly skilled and knowledgeable acoustics and modeling experts, the Center addresses both naturally occurring sounds and those generated by industrial activities that BOEM regulates, including offshore oil and gas, renewable energy and marine minerals.

The Center:

  • Drives best practices, research, scientific rigor and policy improvements on marine acoustics issues through its expertise and leadership.
  • Encourages innovation while championing consistency, standardization and efficiency where needed.
  • Informs BOEM’s environmental assessment efforts, including National Environmental Policy Act documents and Endangered Species Act consultations.
  • Infuses improved technical information into policy decisions.
  • Drives improvements in BOEM’s environmental decision-making by working with BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program to identify and fill priority data gaps.
  • Helps stakeholders better understand the effects of marine sound.
  • Partners strategically with external organizations to achieve what cannot be done alone. The Center positions BOEM to become a proactive leader in managing the issues it regulates and become a recognized leader on marine acoustics within the federal government and internationally.

Why Acoustics and Why Now?

What Does It Mean to Be a Trusted Voice?

“Being a trusted voice on marine acoustics issues means that the public, other agencies, our stakeholders and partners can rely on the CMA to provide accurate, dependable and transparent data and information on acoustics. Establishing this trust in the CMA’s efforts will help BOEM become a leader among regulatory agencies on marine acoustics.”

-- Dr. Bill Brown,
BOEM Chief Environmental Officer

In recent years, the bureau’s studies and environmental risk assessment work have expanded to consider a variety of noise sources and impacts to marine species, such as marine mammals, fish and invertebrates, evolving as marine acoustics issues have increased in national and international significance.

Marine noise and its potential impacts affect BOEM’s offshore energy and mineral resource responsibilities in all offshore areas and at all stages of development, including:

  • Seismic surveys
  • Pile driving
  • Dredging
  • Drilling
  • Vessel and helicopter operation
  • Explosive removal of platforms

Understanding marine acoustics science and its policy applications requires highly specialized knowledge and experience in physics and bioacoustics (how animals use and are affected by sound). The CMA provides BOEM with the modeling and bioacoustics expertise needed for the job.

The CMA actively works to identify issues, deficiencies and opportunities to improve or expand on ocean research and offshore regulatory decisions as they pertain to marine acoustics. The following are some of the CMA's accomplishments.

Contact Us at boemacoustics@boem.gov