exposed to sound substantially above 180 dB re 1 μPa, which is already considered by regulators to be a threshold for risk of other forms of injury.


Three previous National Research Council reports recommended research to resolve critical uncertainties about the effects of noise on marine mammals (1994, 2000, 2003b). All three highlight the need for research in behavioral ecology, auditory physiology and anatomy, nonauditory effects of sound, effects of sound on prey of marine mammals, and development of new techniques. The 2003 report also recommended research on sources and modeling of ocean noise. Some of the recommendations have led to research that has greatly reduced the data gap. For example, the 1994 and 2000 reports recommended experiments to determine acoustic exposures that would lead to temporary shifts in the threshold of hearing of marine mammals. In the last decade, several laboratories have succeeded in conducting the experiments; as a result, the uncertainty involved in modeling the noise exposures that start to cause physiological effects on hearing has been reduced.

Progress has also been made on the recommendation with respect to development of new technology. For example, the 1994 report recommended the development of tags to record physiology, behavior, location, and sound exposure. In the last decade, tags have been developed to record all but physiological characteristics (Johnson and Tyack, 2003).

For many of the other research recommendations, research is being conducted, but progress has been slow enough over the last decade to argue for the establishment of a targeted research program. The 2000 and 2003 reports recommended better coordination between federal regulatory agencies and science-funding agencies to develop a multidisciplinary research program. It was recommended that the research program operate like that of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, issuing targeted requests for proposals and judging the quality of proposals with peer review. Although some progress has been made, it is worth reiterating that progress on critical research requires that the federal government develop and fund a dedicated research program.

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