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Developing solutions to underwater radiated noise

SATURN is an EU-funded project researching solutions to the problem of underwater radiated noise caused by shipping and other vessels. 

Our Research Aims

SATURN is a four-year research project that will fill gaps in scientific knowledge surrounding the issue of underwater noise from shipping and other vessels by:

Understanding the Sources

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Establishing which sounds are most detrimental to aquatic species and how they are produced and propagated

Determining the Impacts

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Identifying the short-term and cumulative long-term impacts of noise from shipping and boats on invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals in rivers and the ocean

Determining the most promising options for measuring and reducing the negative impacts of ship noise that can be applied to current and future vessels

Developing Solutions

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What is Underwater Radiated Noise?

Understanding the issue of noise from shipping & other vessels

The shipping industry is an important mainstay of the EU economy, directly employing 640,000 people and contributing €57 billion to the European GDP in 2015. International maritime trade has doubled over the past two decades from 30,000 to 60,000 billion cargo tonne-miles, and is projected to continue increasing at up to 3.5% annually. One cost of such growth is the increase in noise pollution in the form of Underwater Radiated Noise (URN). URN is produced by all types of vessels, from large ships that generally emit low frequency acoustic energy (<10kHz), to smaller recreational vessels that emit higher frequency sound (10-100kHz) in shallower coastal areas or in rivers and lakes. Consequently, all aquatic species are potentially at risk of exposure.

The majority of aquatic species use sound for vital life functions such as communication, foraging, and avoiding predators. Unfortunately, the sounds made by human activities at sea can interfere with the ability of organisms to carry out these vital life functions. Underwater radiated noise from shipping and other vessels can disrupt and cause changes in anatomy, development, behaviour, and physiological stress levels in mammals, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates — effects which can sometimes be lethal. These impacts are increasingly apparent at the ecosystem level, with implications for protected areas and species, food security, and the blue economy. For example, fisheries may be at risk where the abundance and behaviour of fish leads to reduced catches, and declines in charismatic megafauna such as marine mammals could affect the growth of ecotourism.

Thankfully, there are many ways in which we can reduce URN and restore balance to ocean soundscapes. Coming soon, we'll have a page telling you about proposed solutions. 

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Resources and Publications

Take a look at our multimedia and resources page to learn more about underwater radiated noise and the SATURN project. Over the course of the project we'll be adding fact sheets, peer-reviewed publications, public deliverables, and other educational resources for a variety of audiences. 

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Our Expert Team of Researchers

SATURN brings together 20 expert research partners from across Europe, uniting a range of disciplines in the search for solutions to underwater radiated noise. Our team is made up of researchers in bioacoustics, shipping industry experts, engineers, communicators, and more.  Learn more about our multi-disciplinary team via the button below.

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