In a January 19, 2010 letter to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco committed to improving the tools used by the agency to evaluate the impacts of human-induced noise on cetacean species. As a result, two data and product-driven working groups were convened in January 2011: the Underwater Sound-field Mapping Working Group and the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group. In May 2012, the working groups presented their products at a Symposium where potential management applications were discussed with a large multi-stakeholder audience.

Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group
The specific objective of the NOAA Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group (SoundMap) is to create mapping methods to depict the temporal, spatial, and spectral characteristics of underwater noise.

Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group
The specific objective of the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Group (CetMap) is to create regional cetacean density and distribution maps that are time- and species-specific, using survey data and models that estimate density using predictive environmental factors.  Separately, to augment the more quantitative density mapping and provide additional context for impact analyses, the CetMap is also identifying known areas of specific importance for cetaceans, such as reproductive areas, feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small or resident populations are concentrated.

Integrative Symposium
On May 23rd and 24th at the Four Points Sheraton in Washington DC, the near-final draft CetMap and SoundMap products were presented to an audience of ~170 people that included participants from government agencies, regulated industries, independent scientists, environmental consultancies and conservation advocacy groups.

NOAA deeply appreciates the significant financial support the U.S. Navy and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management contributed to Duke University and Heat, Light and Sound Research, Inc. for their work in this effort, and to the Symposium. We also appreciate the additional funding provided by Dokumentes des Meeres in support of C. Kappels work, and by the Marine Mammal Commission in support of the Symposium. In addition, we are grateful to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. and JASCO Research Ltd. for providing access to sound modeling results from the Beaufort Sea. Finally, NOAA thanks all of the participants and the Symposium Planning Group for the time and enthusiasm they have provided to this effort.

Contacts and Additional Information
Please contact Leila Hatch ( or Jolie Harrison ( with questions. Additional information and updated products will be posted on this website as they become available.