Studying how to reduce the impact of maritime transport noise on marine species

Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB)

Led by the marine bioacoustician Michel André and linked to the Vilanova i la Geltrú School of Engineering (EPSEVG), Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB) is a UPC research laboratory focused on bioacoustics monitoring, biodiversity conservation and the assessment of the effects of sound on marine organisms. The LAB has extensive experience in sound measurement standardisation through its international programme LIDO (Listen to the Deep-Ocean Environment), in which underwater observatories are 24/7 monitoring noise worldwide and streaming processed acoustic data in real-time to the internet and to the EU TG Noise Expert Group. The LAB has pioneered the research on the impact of sound on invertebrates and published several reference papers on the subject.

The UPC’s Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB) participates in the European project SATURN, an initiative that brings together partners from ten countries to develop innovative solutions to reduce the negative effects of underwater noise on the ecosystem and move towards a cleaner and quieter maritime sector.

May 28, 2021

Underwater noise from maritime transport and other human activities is a complex global problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. In this context, SATURN brings together acousticians, marine biologists, naval architects and standards bodies that will be working side by side with a group of international stakeholders to reduce the harmful effects of underwater noise on marine species.

The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, with a budget of 8.9 million euros, and coordinated by the Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine (MaREI) of University College Cork, Ireland. It involves 20 institutions from 10 European countries, including the LAB of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC).

Project lead and MaREI principal investigator Gerry Sutton explains that “it is a privilege to be leading such a talented and committed group of scientists and engineers. Everyone put 100% into the proposal, finding common ground by bridging traditional boundaries between their respective disciplines. This means we are now all very much looking forward to jointly embarking on our exciting four-year work programme.”

Technological solutions for preserving the marine environment

In the context of global concern about ocean health, SATURN’s technical approach focuses on developing engineering solutions to reduce and mitigate noise emissions from maritime transport at frequencies most detrimental to marine wildlife. This new perspective is considered a major step forward in the European maritime transport sector in terms of marine environment protection. By assessing new technologies and promoting new regulations, SATURN will be responding to the needs of citizens and the ecosystem itself and supporting ocean protection.

The consortium will be working to uncover the physical mechanisms of underwater noise production and emission, to develop methods for assessing the noise signature of ships cost effectively and to understand how marine mammals, fish and invertebrates respond to various sound levels and frequencies. In addition, real-life case studies will be studied to test the effectiveness of technical and operational efforts in reducing ocean noise through smart regional management policies.

In addition to MaREI and the UPC, the project has 18 other partners, including research centres, government agencies and companies: the universities of Aarhus (Denmark), Leiden (the Netherlands) and La Laguna (Spain); the UK government agency CEFAS; the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN); the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO); the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW); the public research body CNR; the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN); the Italian Ship Research Centre (CETENA); the JASCO group; and the companies and firms Bureau Veritas, DNV GL, Naval Group, Quiet Oceans, Técnicas y Servicios de Ingeniería S.L. (TSI), Wärtsilä and SIREHNA.