The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is strategically emerging as the most important sea area in the twenty-first century and presents itself as a hub for maritime trade. The shipping traffic both due to merchant and naval vessels has increased manifold. The underwater radiated noise (URN) from marine vessels interferes with the perception of the marine ecosystem by the big whales, leading to acoustic habitat degradation. The global increase in the low-frequency ambient noise due to shipping is known to have doubled every decade, since the preindustrial era based on records available since the 1950s. The IOR has unique characteristics, in terms of geopolitical, socioeconomical, acoustical (tropical littoral waters) and more. The regulatory framework for managing the acoustic habitat degradation in the IOR will require understanding the unique challenges and opportunities. The frequent stranding of big whales in recent times is a manifestation of the severe acoustic habitat degradation in the region and demands urgent measures to be initiated. This chapter attempts to present the multiple dimensions of acoustic habitat degradation due to shipping in the IOR. Effective underwater domain awareness (UDA) framework proposed by the author could provide a comprehensive way forward to contain the noise pollution caused by increasing URN levels.
Part of the book: Changing Ecosystems and Their Services