Subject: ABSTRACT: ATOC and the effect of political pressures on science (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 15:22:56 -0400 (EDT)

J. Michael Williamson
   Wheelock College
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.566.7369


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 2 Aug 1996 09:48:32 -0700
From: Robin W. Baird <rbaird@UVic.CA>
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: ABSTRACT: ATOC and the effect of political pressures on science

thought MARMAM subscribers might be interested in the following.....

Kineon, F.P. 1996. Acoustic thermometry of ocean climate: a case
   study in the effect of political pressures on science. M. Marine
   Affairs Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle. 100pp.


        One of the more controversial issues in the environmental
community involves anthropogenic sound in the ocean.  Sources of
anthropogenic sound include: SONAR (SOund NAvigation and Ranging),
vessel traffic, seismic exploration, pile driving, military experiments and
civilian experiments involving tools such as acoustic tomography.
Sounds produced by these sources are controversial because there are
little data to determine impacts upon marine organisms.  Regardless of
this meager data base, research is hindered by a lack of funding, the
general difficulty of studying marine organisms, and the restrictive nature
of some United States (U.S.) legislation (e.g. Endangered Species Act
and Marine Mammal Protection Act) Some sources of anthropogenic
sound are restricted by statute, while others do not appear to require
permits.  The dearth of data, coupled with the lack of an avenue to obtain
further information, and regulatory inequity, exemplify the contradictory
policies surrounding man-made sources of sound.

        Anthropogenic sound in the marine environment has come into the
public arena due to a heightened awareness of marine activities and
their effects.  In 1990, a feasibility test designed to determine whether
sound signals could be detected over great distances was announced.
This experiment, referred to as the Heard Island Feasibility Test (HIFT),
occurred off a remote island in the Southern Ocean.  Some marine
mammal experts, as well as Greenpeace, raised objections to this
experiment where sound would be projected loudly enough presumably
to be heard half way around the world.  However, since the experiment
was taking place a great distance from the United States and the
newspapers did not carry the story until the experiment was in
progress, there was little public comment on the Heard Island experiment.

        The present focus of attention on anthropogenic sound involves
the Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) experiment,
conceived by the same group of principal investigators involved in the
Heard Island study.  ATOC is a two year test aimed at establishing the
feasibility of measuring temperature change in the oceans to verify
current climate change models.  The experiment will operate two sound
sources of California and Hawaii.  It is essential that the sound produced
be loud enough to travel through thousands of kilometers of ocean to
meet the experimental design criteria of accounting for local variations in
temperature.  The present controversy that surrounds the validity of the
ATOC experiment, as well as the potential harm to marine fauna, is
caused by: the intensity of the sound source, the innovative hypothesis
of the project, and the proximity of the California and Hawaii locations to
formally designated marine sanctuaries.

        Beneath the principle of ATOC lies the relatively newly introduced
science of acoustic tomography (AT), in which low-frequency sound
waves projected over long distances are used to measure variations in
the physical properties of the oceans.  ATOC will use AT as a powerful
tool for studying global climate change through verifying climate change
models.  A new set of concerns about the effect of human-generated
sound on marine animals has been raised by AT causing the AT
experiment ATOC to become contentious, even though such research
offers the prospect of better understanding global climate change.

        Environmentalists have challenged proposed AT experiments,
arguing that they pose a threat to whales and other marine mammals.  AT
researchers have responded that there is no evidence that AT is
harmful, and that there are many other natural and human sources of
high-energy, low-frequency sound in the marine environment that have
not aroused such concerns.

        Government agencies that are responsible for approving permits
to conduct AT experiments are hampered by a dearth of data concerning
the effects of such sound on marine animals.  Moreover, there is a  lack
of a coherent policy framework for evaluating the environmental impacts
of AT research.  The current case-by-case approach to permitting AT
experiments has produced continual challenges in which the same
issues are raised, but left unresolved.  A growing public discontent has
lead to criticism beginning to spread to all forms of anthropogenic sound
in the ocean.  The need to create a coherent and equitable policy
surrounding anthropogenic ocean sound becomes evident as
controversy increases.

        Many individuals are concerned about the health of the ocean and
want to learn more about how it functions.  Subsequently, there are
many stakeholders in the ATOC experiment.   Physical oceanographers
are concerned with how sound travels through the oceans.
Behaviorists who study marine mammals, are interested in what type of
response or potential physical damage these projections of sound will
create.  Fishery biologists and fishermen, similarly, are interested in the
effects of anthropogenic sound on fish.  Climatologists are concerned
with the question of global warming and what can be learned from
sound regarding this topic.  Environmental groups want the ocean and its
flora and fauna to be preserved for future generations, and are
proponents of responsible management of the resources towards that
end.  Government agencies want already instituted laws to be adhered
to.  Finally, there is the Strategic Environmental Research Defense
Program (SERDP) that funds ATOC through the Advanced Research
Projects Agency.  SERDP is a program established by Congress that
mandates the Department of Defense to spend money on environmentally
relevant issues.

        The impetus behind this study is the author's experience compiling
the Environmental Assessment for HIFT, and participating as a marine
mammal observer on the experiment.  The politics, misunderstandings of
the science, and controversial scientific hypotheses involved with both
HIFT, and later intensified through ATOC, prompted my desire to facilitate
a more fundamental understanding and structured set of policies in
which to explore the ocean realm by means of sound.

        This paper seeks to define the controversy surrounding the
ATOC experiment as an example of human-generated sound in the
ocean and stake holder interactions.  The ATOC study becomes
instructive as a case analysis because it provides an example of the
effects of public controversy on a scientific experiment.  The first
chapter provides context by: characterizing human-generated sound in
the ocean; reviewing the history of sound research in the marine
environment; reviewing the history of sound research in the marine
environment; analyzing research results on the effects of sound on
marine animals; providing an overview of the applicable environmental
laws, and describing the case study, ATOC.  The second chapter
discusses ramifications of the controversy that surround the study by
characterizing why ATOC is controversial, and addressing the harm this
experiment has caused to the individuals involved and society as a
whole.  Chapter Three examines the causal factors that led to the
emerging controversies.  Chapter Four consists of a policy analysis
focused on decisions made surrounding ATOC.  This analysis includes
alternative solutions, and through criteria, suggests the best plan to avoid
future conflicts.

        Conclusions reached through this analysis were derived from
current literature, and interviews with many professionals in the marine
mammal research realm, environmental organizations, physical
oceanographers, acousticians, policy specialists, and academicians.
The broader perspective implicit in this thesis will optimistically be
considered with necessary future policy surrounding all anthropogenic
sound in the ocean.  With over fifty years of research and an enhanced
effort to understand ocean noise in the past five years, it is time to lay
the foundations for such a policy.

Forsyth P. Kineon, MMA
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
7600 Sand Point Way, N.E.
Seattle, Washington 98115
(w) 206/526-4101, (fax) 206/526-6615
(h) 206/726-9309