Spectrogram of the noise from a ship. Image Integrated Marine Observing System
Spectrogram of noise from a ship. Source: Joshua Smith, Murdoch University - using data from Integrated Marine Observing System

Underwater radiated noise from shipping can have short-term and long-term impacts on marine life, especially marine mammals. Noise travels more than four times faster in water than air, and engine noise from shipping can make it difficult for many whale species to communicate, rest, breed and avoid danger, as well as to echolocate, which species such as killer whales rely on to hunt and navigate.

In Australia, the characterisation and actual impacts of shipping noise on species behaviour are not clearly understood and information is needed. In this project, Curtin and Murdoch Universities and hub partners are developing quantitative spatial and temporal maps of shipping noise to inform on noise exposure and impacts to matters of national environmental significance (MNES) within the EEZ and in World Heritage Areas.

The outputs will provide key information to marine management agencies such as the Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to help them meet responsibilities and obligations under international and national law and policy to minimise the impacts of shipping noise on MNES.


Christine Erbe, Curtin University
Josh Smith, Murdoch University