The contribution to anthropogenic noise from marine aggregate extraction operation in UK waters

As of 2009, there were 75 licensed areas within UK waters for marine aggregate extraction. Each year, around 20 million tonnes of sand and gravel are extracted from these areas for use in the construction and building industry1. Extraction of marine aggregate has the potential to generate noise, and if at sufficient levels, this could have a negative impact on marine species in or around the dredging area. However, measurement of the noise generated during marine aggregate extraction has been limited, particularly in UK waters. The most extensive measurements were undertaken in the Beaufort Sea during oil exploration in the 1980s2,3. Other measurements around Sakhalin Island have been reported in the literature, which were compared by Ainslie et al4 to other vessels including the Overseas Harriette5. This paper presents the results of underwater noise measurements for six different dredgers measured in three locations around the UK, with aggregate type varying from sand to coarse gravel. From the measurements of radiated noise for dredgers under normal operation an estimate is made of the long term contributions to ambient noise levels from typical dredgers under normal operation, the contribution to the overall ambient noise budget, and the cumulative Sound Exposure Level for receptors in the vicinity.