Supporting the protection and sustainable use of the marine environment

WMU-GESAMP-41-sessionThe Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) held their 41st session at WMU from 1-4 September. Established in 1969, GESAMP is an advisory body that advises the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.

The Mission of GESAMP is: "To provide authoritative, independent, interdisciplinary scientific advice to organizations and member Governments to support the protection and sustainable use of the marine environment."

Each year, the partner UN agencies of GESAMP alternate hosting the annual meetings. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was this year's host agency and recommended the meetings be held at their apex institution for postgraduate education and research, the World Maritime University. WMU Alumnus, Fredrik Haag, is a Technical Officer at the IMO and was part of the administrative Secretariet in attendance. He noted that given the activities at WMU, with research and the students, it was decided it would be a good opportunity to bring the independent scientific group to the University for the annual session.

Participants from 14 countries came together to discuss the agenda items that included evaluation of hazards of harmful substances carried by ships, review of applications for "active substances‟ in ballast water management systems, scientific review of mercury and its compounds and threats to the marine environment, trends in global pollution in coastal environments, and global assessment of micro-plastics in the environment.

The meetings were an invitation only, closed session, aside from a seminar on "Maritime activities and noise: Sources and Impacts" that was open to the public as well as live-streamed on 3 September. Five speakers presented during the three-hour seminar and included Dr. Christina Mueller-Blenkle, an independent consultant, Dr. Frank Thomsen from the Danish Hydraulic Institute, Professor Peter Sigray from the Swedish Defence Research Institute, WMU alumnus Fredrick Haag from the IMO, and WMU Research Assistant Annukka Pekkarinen. The seminar was moderated by Peter Kershaw, Chairman of GESAMP.

The seminar focused on how over the past century, human activities have increased the levels of sound in the oceans through shipping, military operations, offshore exploration, and other activities including the use of active acoustic equipment for various purposes. Scientific studies were presented documenting that noise in the marine environment impacts marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates, particularly those who use sound for communication and navigation, and can cause physical injuries as well as disrupting behavior.

The speakers noted that although the topic of marine noise has been documented in scientific literature over at least the last two decades, significant knowledge gaps remain particularly in terms of the specific and non-specific impacts of noise as well as studies over longer time and larger spatial scales. Despite those knowledge gaps, the effects of noise on marine life are being taken into account as in the regulatory example developed by IMO, "Guidelines for minimizing underwater noise from commercial ships,"which was recently adopted by the Organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee.

Source and Image Credit: WMU

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