Monitoring and Mitigation
In many regions governments require potentially harmful activities, such as the use of airguns or explosives, to be curtailed if sensitive animals are located within a certain range. To allow companies to comply with these regulations they normally employ teams of Marine Mammal Observers, MMOs, to keep a watch for marine mammals. Offshore contractors expend significant funds on mitigation monitoring and experienced MMOs, most of whom are graduate biologists, spend a great deal of their lives at sea providing this service.
We are keen to improve the general level of marine mammal monitoring by, for example:
Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) for Mitigation
Mitigation monitoring has traditionally relied on visual observers, However, marine mammals are difficult animals to see offshore, especially in rough weather, and visual detection is virtually impossible in fog and at night. In some areas regulations require actives such as seismic surveys to stop completely when visual conditions are poor.
Many marine mammals produce distinctive and characteristic vocalizations that can often be detected at greater range with more consistency than visual cues. Acoustic monitoring is less affected by weather and can continue day and night. Thus, for many species, the use of acoustic monitoring can allow offshore operators to more consistently comply with regulations.
The extent to which PAM increases monitoring efficiency varies from species to species. For example, acoustic monitoring is particularly helpful with sperm whales which make long deep dives during which they can not be seen at the surface but may be particularly vulnerable to intense sounds. However, sperm produce loud distinctive clicks for most of the time they are away from the surface and these can be readily detected and localised at ranges of several miles.
Jonathan Gordon was a member of the team that developed the first acoustic monitoring system designed to assist mitigation monitoring during seismic surveys with funding from Shell UK in 1999.
A summary report of this three year project can be downloaded here as a pdf file.
Ecologic can provide a monitoring service based on updated versions of the "Shell" system using marine mammal observers with appropriate acoustic experience. We can also build and assemble acoustic monitoring equipment based on the "Shell" system and provide training in its use.
Video Range Measuring During Mitigation
Another practical innovation developed and promoted by Ecologic is the use of a video to accurately measure ranges to marine mammals at sea and provide auditable evidence on which decisions to suspend or delay operations are based. Find out more about video range measuring here.
Recent Acoustic Monitoring Projects
2003 Advisor and supplier of experienced MMOs to Applied Ecosystems Ltd on Esso Tuskfish seismic survey. This was the first survey in which the "Shell" system had been deployed directly from the seismic survey vessel rather than a guard boat.
2002 Supplier of equipment, advice and MMOs for QinetiQ for mitigation during Sonar trails in the Bay of Biscay.
2001 Supplier of equipment, consultancy and MMOs for Talisman providing mitigation during laying of pipeline to Beatirce oil field throuh Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin Special Area of Conservation
2001 Supplier of equipment, consultancy and MMOs to Coflexip Stenna, for mitigation during explosive removal of well heads in North Sea. Project included source level measurements by Subacoustech. Report available here .
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