COP12 Resolution on Adverse Impacts of Anthropogenic Noise on Cetaceans and Other Migratory Species, incl. CMS Family Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessments for Marine Noise-generating Activities

Following a multi-step consultation process as outlined in UNEP/CMS/COP12/Doc.24.2.2, Resolution 12.14 on Adverse Impacts of Anthropogenic Noise on Cetaceans and Other Migratory Species was adopted by the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS. In its Annex, it contains CMS Family Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessments for Marine Noise-generating Activities.

These Guidelines cover the necessary detail for meaningful EIAs for Military and Civil High-powered Sonar, Shipping and Vessels Traffic, Seismic Surveys (Air Gun and Alternative Technologies), Construction Works, Offshore Platforms, Playback and Sound Exposure Experiments, Pingers (Acoustic Deterrent/Harassment Devices, Navigation), and other Noise-generating Activities (Acoustic Data Transmission, Wind, Tidal and Wave Turbines and Future Technologies).

The Resolution urges Parties to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments take full account of the effects of activities on CMS-listed marine species and their prey and consider a more holistic ecological approach at a strategic planning stage. The Guidelines are designed to support them in this endeavour.


Technical Support Information

Parties and members of the advisory bodies and relevant working groups of CMS, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS were also invited to peer review the expert-authored Technical Support Information Modules made available below. Changes remained at the discretion of each author.

  • Executive Summary

  • Module A: Sound in Water is Complex’
    provides an insight into the characteristics of sound propagation and dispersal. This module is designed to provide decision-makers with necessary foundation knowledge to interpret the other modules in these guidelines and any impact assessments that are presented to them for consideration.

  • ‘Module B: Expert Advice on Specific Species Groups’
    presents twelve separate detailed sub-modules covering each of the CMS species groups, focusing on species' vulnerabilities, habitat considerations, impact of exposure levels and assessment criteria.
    B.1.     Inshore Odontocetes
    B.2.     Offshore Odontocetes
    B.3.     Beaked Whales
    B.4.     Mysticetes
    B.5.     Pinnipeds
    B.6.     Polar Bears
    B.7.     Sirenians
    B.8.     Marine and Sea Otters
    B.9.     Marine Turtles
    B.10.  Fin-Fish
    B.11.  Elasmobranchs
    B.12.  Marine Invertebrates

  • ‘Module C: Decompression Stress’
    provides important information on bubble formation in marine mammals, the source of decompression stress, the source frequency, level and duration, and assessment criteria.

  • ‘Module D: Exposure Levels’
    presents a summary of the current state of knowledge about general exposure levels.

  • ‘Module E: Marine Noise-generating Activities’
    provides a brief summary of military sonar, seismic surveys, civil high powered sonar, coastal and offshore construction works, offshore platforms, playback and sound exposure experiments, shipping and vessel traffic, pingers and other noise-generating activities. Each section presents current knowledge about sound intensity level, frequency range and the activities general characteristics. The information is summarized in a table within the module.

  • ‘Module F: Related Intergovernmental or Regional Economic Organization Decisions’
    presents the series of intergovernmental decisions that have determined the direction for regulation of anthropogenic marine noise.

  • ‘Module G: Principles of EIAs’
    establishes basic principles including strategic environmental assessments, transparency, natural justice, independent peer review, consultation and burden of proof.

  • ‘Module H: CMS-Listed Species Potentially Impacted by Anthropogenic Marine Noise’

A single file containing all Modules of the Technical Support Information is available here and as UNEP/CMS/COP12/Inf.11.


Development of the Guidelines and Technical Support Information

Several resolutions of ASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS and CMS have recognized underwater noise as a major threat to many marine species. These resolutions call for noise-related considerations to be taken into account as early as the planning stages of activities, especially by making effective use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). Thanks to a voluntary contribution from Monaco, the CMS Secretariat on behalf also of the ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS Secretariats was able to hire consultants to undertake this work.

The consultants developed the modules with a range of experts on the different species and topics. The draft was sent in early April 2016 to CMS Scientific Councillors, ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee Members and ASCOBANS Advisory Committee Members, the CMS Scientific Council Aquatic Mammals Working Group, the CMS/ASCOBANS/ACCOBAMS Joint Noise Working Group, CMS, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS Focal Points, a number of IUCN Species Specialist Groups as well as the CMS, ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS Secretariats (see also CMS Notification 2016/009). The commenting period ended in early July 2016, by which time the European Commission and six State Parties, as well as partner organizations, had provided input.

With the intention that all relevant CMS Family instruments adopt the same guidelines, the resulting revised draft was presented to the 8th Meeting of the Parties to ASCOBANS (MOP8) in August 2016 (available as ASCOBANSMOP8/Doc.6.2.7.b Rev.1: CMS Family Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessments for Marine Noise-generating Activities), representing what the experts urge Parties to consider.

ASCOBANS MOP8, through ASCOBANS Resolution 8.11, requested that Parties to CMS, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS be given additional opportunity to provide input, and invited CMS to consider adoption at COP12. Discussions at ASCOBANS MOP8 further indicated that the document would benefit from clearer distinction between the explanatory modules (modules B to H in the original proposal) and the guidelines recommended for adoption (originally module I). Accordingly, the separation reflected above was introduced, with one document containing the Guidelines, accompanied by detailed, expert-authored Technical Support Information.

The final draft Guidelines will be presented to the 2nd Meeting of the Sessional Committee of the Scientific Council (ScC-SC2, July 2017) and subsequently to the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS (COP12, October 2017).


The Government of the Principality of Monaco were recognized as Champion for their generous support and commitment towards marine species conservation for the period 2015 – 2017. The development of the guidelines has been funded with the contribution granted by Monaco under the Migratory Species Champion Programme.