Sound and marine life

What impact, if any, can underwater surveying have on marine life? That’s a question the oil and gas industry has been working to answer since 2004.

Before that, relatively little was known about the effects on marine life of sound generated by offshore exploration and production.

To provide regulators, scientists and oil and gas companies themselves with independent scientific information, we have:

Seismic surveys & marine mammals – joint OGP/IAGC position paper

Our position paper on the sound introduced into the marine environment as a result of seismic exploration and its potential impact on marine mammals. Download

Fundamentals of underwater SoundA ‘primer’ to assist the reader in understanding the extremely complex topic of underwater acoustics. Download

An overview of marine seismic operations

This document describes the various methods that are used for marine seismic surveys by the E&P industry. Download

Model based assessment of underwater noise from an airgun array soft-start operation

This report presents results of an acoustic modelling study that estimates the received sound levels at locations in the water column near a towed seismic airgun array during a soft-start procedure in which the number and total volume of the airguns in the source array increase over time.

Fact sheets

Sound and marine life videos

Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme

Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme

Under IOGP management, this project has brought together up to 14 oil & gas companies and industry associations.

The JIP aims to:

  • better characterise the sounds that our industry produces
  • determine the potential impacts of these sounds on marine life and thereby to improve risk assessments and mitigation.
Study areas

To date, the JIP has commissioned more than 50 research projects. These can be categorised into 5 main study areas:

  1. the characteristics of sound from oil and gas operations and how those sounds spread
  2. physical, physiological and hearing effects of those sounds on marine life
  3. behavioural reactions and biologically significant effects
  4. mitigation and monitoring
  5. the most effective research tools
Research projects include:
  • a study, nearing completion in the Gulf of Mexico provides, for the first time, a thorough understanding of the sounds produced by offshore exploration using seismic air guns.
    This study quantified sound generated by seismic exploration surveys (which use air guns to release sound pulses in water as a way of assessing seabed formations below).
  • other studies that investigated the hearing thresholds, ranges and sensitivities of dolphins and Arctic seals.
  • the development – and deployment – of a software package to help interpret sounds from marine mammals picked up by passive acoustic monitoring systems. This is already helping operators to avoid or reduce interaction with marine mammals during seismic surveys.
For more information visit

E&P Sound and Marine Life Programme