ASA 128th Meeting - Austin, Texas - 1994 Nov 28 .. Dec 02

3aAO3. Developing standards for protecting marine mammals from noise: Lessons from the development of standards for humans.

Ann E. Bowles

Hubbs-Sea World Res. Inst., 2595 Ingraham St., San Diego, CA 92109

Models for protecting marine mammals from noise have been suggested that are analogous to human noise criteria, specifically (1) weighting functions that model species-specific auditory threshold functions (analogous to A-weighting); (2) threshold models for predicting the proportion of individuals that avoid a noise (analogous to the Schulz model of annoyance); and (3) the equal-energy hypothesis for predicting hearing loss. Models for reducing sleep interference, speech interference, and attention deficits might also be applicable. All these models will be reviewed. Unfortunately, human noise criteria do not apply to a number of effects that could occur in free-ranging marine mammals. Noise could affect nonauditory physiology. Noise could also mimic natural sounds (e.g., seismic impulses that are similar to tail beats), or attract marine mammals into dangerous areas (e.g., attracting killer whales to fishing gear). Given the paucity of research available on noise effects in marine mammals, standards may be difficult to establish, although they are badly needed. At present, management agencies have adopted extremely conservative noise criteria. The experience of regulating noise in human communities suggests that such stringent criteria cannot be enforced consistently. Solutions that have proved practical for human communities will be reviewed.