Making waves for whales on World Oceans Day

Whales, dolphins and our planet’s oceans face a wide variety of threats, more today than ever before in history.  Some of these are old and familiar: commercial whaling, pollution of marine habitat, entanglement in outmoded fishing gear, and ship strikes with high-speed vessels.

So it is appropriate for me and my colleague Beth Allgood, the US office campaigns director to be on Capitol Hill to participate in a briefing with Congressional leaders’ staff highlighting the emerging threat of ocean noise pollution.

After wading through security, we arrived to a standing room only crowd of House and Senate staffers eager to get a glimpse of Sonic Sea (, the documentary film produced by NRDC and Imaginary Forces in association with IFAW and Diamond Docs.

This powerful new film is the latest product of a longstanding collaboration between IFAW and NRDC. Its arrival is very timely; it is making a splash well beyond Washington. Thanks to a partnership with Discovery Channel, Sonic Sea is being broadcast across the United States and 219 other countries and territories worldwide between now and the end of the year.

After a panel discussion highlighting key issues raised in our new report, Jon Bardin, Discovery’s Director of Development for Documentaries and Specials, Dr. Ingrid Biedron of Oceana, and I fielded questions from our Congressional staff colleagues. Many questions focused on what Congress, Federal Agencies and the private sector can do to accelerate progress in reducing ocean noise which is growing dramatically in critical ocean habitats around the world.

Even in recent months, there are reasons to be encouraged. After years of legal action by NRDC, often supported by IFAW and others in the conservation community, the US Navy’s Pacific fleet took important action late last year, agreeing to peacetime restrictions on its use of high intensity sonar in critical habitat areas off Southern California and Hawaii.  Important action is also underway at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where IFAW has unique consultative status on whale and shipping related issues. The IMO has adopted guidelines to inform government and private sector standards for addressing noise reduction, ship and propeller design, and individual companies and the shipping and energy industries are beginning to show interest and early leadership on this rapidly emerging issue.

READ: Sonic Sea: Impacts of Noise on Marine Mammals

Earlier this month, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new Ocean Noise Strategy laying out a roadmap for agency actions to begin approaching noise as a threat to marine life and habitats.  This initial step represents a sea change in the U.S. government’s approach. If promptly followed by an implementation plan and timeline, this should help encourage action by other U.S. agencies including the Department of Transportation and the Pentagon to migrate in the same direction.

As I walked across the Hill to join IFAW colleagues staffing our booth at Capitol Hill Ocean Week, I was deeply honored to meet four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and present each of them copies of our new report. 

Following today's Congressional briefing, IFAW's Patrick Ramage, a third-generation serviceman, was honored to present four Medal of Honor recipients with copies of the new Sonic Sea report on ocean noise. Left to Right: Col. Gordon Roberts; Gen. James Livingston; IFAW's Patrick Ramage; SSgt. Sal Giunta; Cpt. Flo Groberg

For this grandson of a sailor killed at Pearl Harbor, son of a Vietnam veteran, and as a five-year Army veteran myself, it was deeply moving to meet these American heroes. I was also impressed by their interest in the ocean noise issue, which clearly resonated with them.  As we parted, I encouraged them to see Sonic Sea tonight when it airs on Animal Planet Channel.  Check your local listings!

Please join IFAW’s efforts to spread the word about Sonic Sea and ocean noise pollution!


Learn more about our work with whales.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime