Sonic Sea: Sounding the Alarm on Ocean Noise
Beneath the surface of our oceans lies a finely balanced, living world of sound, most of which we never hear topside. But to whales, dolphins and other marine life, sound is survival, the key to how they navigate, find mates, hunt for food, communicate over vast distances and protect themselves against predators in waters dark and deep.
Our oceans, though, have become vast junkyards of industrial noise — often louder than a rock concert — from commercial shipping, military sonar and seismic blasts that test for oil and gas. The seas have become so loud, in places, that these great animals are drowning in noise that threatens their health, their future and their very lives.
On May 19, the Discovery Channel will premiere an important new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) film that documents this shattering underwater peril. Sonic Sea calls on us to turn down the volume before it’s too late.
Naval sonar drills leave whales disoriented and impaired. They can go silent and abandon their habitat and some even become stranded and die in a desperate bid to escape torturous noise. Watermen report entire populations of fish vanishing across broad ocean regions after oil and gas seismic blasting. And in a world where a staggering 60,000 commercial tanker and container ships are plying the seas at any given time, each one as loud as a nearby thunderstorm to area marine life in the area, the onslaught of undersea noise has become relentless, doubling roughly every decade.
For animals that live by what they hear, more and more of our oceans are sounding like the factory floor: too loud for conversation at the center of their life. North Atlantic right whales off the coast of Boston regularly lose up to 80 percent of their communications range, their ability to process sound drowned out by commercial shipping. And it’s getting harder to find sanctuary — anywhere.
To the future of marine life worldwide, deafening noise is hardly the only threat. It is compounding the stress ocean life faces a growing litany of environmental ills.
Climate change is raising ocean temperatures, threatening coral reefs. When we burn coal, gas and oil, we put carbon pollution in the air. Much of that carbon settles into our seas, raising the acidity of global waters in a process called ocean acidification, impairing the ability of shellfish to grow strong shells. On top of all that, our seas are confronting chronic overfishing, chemical pollution, oil and gas production and a global tide of plastic waste.
By compromising the ability of whales, dolphins and other marine life to feed, reproduce and protect themselves, ocean noise is undermining the natural resiliency species need to cope with these other threats.
The sea is where life on Earth begins. If our oceans die, we won’t survive. And here’s the thing: Ocean noise is a problem we can solve. Like a summer night when the fireworks end, our oceans return to their natural soundscape when we turn down the noise. That’s what NRDC has been working to do for the past two decades, standing at the forefront of the fight against ocean noise worldwide.
Help @NRDC and @action4ifaw save some of the ocean's largest creatures: https://t.co/umF6N7Tnl1 #StopOceanNoise https://t.co/OrWtYc9jKa— Sonic Sea (@Sonic Sea)1462982272.0
Last year, we won a court settlement to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from powerful sonar during routine U.S. Navy tests and exercises off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California. Naval security and readiness remain sound. We don’t have to harm or kill some of the most majestic creatures on Earth to safeguard our seas and shores.
We’ve also sued the oil and gas industry over seismic blasting that threatens marine life, winning important improvements in the way such testing is done in places like the Gulf of Mexico. And we helped persuade the United Nations International Maritime Organization to adopt guidelines for reducing low-frequency ocean noise from commercial ships. There’s far more, though, that we must do.
Better shipping technology and practices, changes in military exercises and tests and stronger safeguards against seismic blasting at sea can all go a long way toward reining in the acoustic assault on our oceans. And we need forward-looking action plans from the U.S. Navy, the Interior Department, the Transportation Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agencies that produce or manage noise in the sea.
To quiet the world’s waters, though, we all need to raise our voices. That’s what Sonic Sea is all about: increasing awareness of this growing threat and building a worldwide community of citizen advocates to help us turn down the volume on undersea noise.
The award-winning film is narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Rachel McAdams. It features interviews with the Grammy award-winning musician and environmental activist Sting, as well as the renowned oceanographic explorers and educators Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau. It was produced by NRDC and Imaginary Forces in association with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Diamond Docs. And it was directed and produced by NRDC’s multimedia and film director, Daniel Hinerfeld, along with Michelle Dougherty, a director with Imaginary Forces.
Thank you, New York City, for an incredible premiere. Don't miss #SonicSea, May 19th at 9/8c on @Discovery. https://t.co/5waqz6Y82A— Sonic Sea (@Sonic Sea)1462462498.0
I hope you’ll join me in tuning in to watch this documentary on the Discovery Channel May 19. Then, together, let’s speak up to turn down the noise that threatens our oceans — and threatens us all.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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