Cetacean Monitoring

With the ever increasing monitoring demand for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) during marine industrial operations, and the growing interest in cetacean conservation and research worldwide, Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs), Protected Species Observers (PSOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) operators and PAM systems now play an important role in oil and gas exploration, renewable projects and other offshore noise-producing operations such as military exercises.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) blows spotted from a seismic survey vessel operating in the North Atlantic in August 2012. © OSC 2012.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) blows spotted from a seismic survey vessel operating in the North Atlantic in August 2012. © OSC 2012.

Do I need cetacean monitoring for my survey?

If in doubt, give us a call. We are experts in providing immediate solutions to marine mammal survey requirements at extremely short notice; depending on requirements, our highly experienced personnel and equipment can be mobilised within 12 hours, and in some cases depending on region, within a few hours’ notification. Our service of cetacean monitoring is provided worldwide, with the greatest number of cetacean monitoring projects occurring in the North Sea, wider Atlantic, the Mediterranean and other semi-enclosed seas.

Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) aboard a seismic vessel undertaking an Ocean Bottom Cable (OBC) survey. Note seismic airgun array in background. © OSC 2012.

Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) aboard a seismic vessel undertaking an Ocean Bottom Cable (OBC) survey. Note seismic airgun array in background. © OSC 2012.

Although not all locations require cetacean monitoring during offshore operations, the majority of oil and gas companies request Marine Mammal Observers (www.marinemammalobserver.com), Protected Species Observers and/or Passive Acoustic Monitoring (www.passiveacousticmonitoring.co.uk) operators to carry out cetacean monitoring throughout operations that are considered to be of potential threat to animals, particularly with regard to the production of underwater sound, which is now regarded widely and accepted legislatively as a form of pollution.

Whether or not cetacean monitoring is required for your survey or operation will depend on the regulatory body in charge in your area. For example, Marine Mammal Observers are required on all seismic surveys operating within UK waters. Ocean Science Consulting can advise on what’s best for your survey, and plan and design the monitoring schedule that will ensure operational progress without compromising effective mitigation.

If a marine mammal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required before you start your survey or operation, cetacean monitoring may be needed to determine the baseline population levels and seasonal distribution. A now widely accepted and advantageous method to monitor cetacean distribution and abundance is by carrying out line-transect surveys in combination with a statistical technique called “distance sampling” . This can be achieved using a combination of Marine Mammal Observer (visual) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring techniques such as C-PODs (www.cpodclickdetector.co.uk).

Cetacean monitoring can help us gain a better understanding of when cetaceans use certain areas, and for what purposes, while also allowing us to monitor any population trends or shifts in distribution. This level of assessment is often required before any exploration or production permit is awarded to the operating oil and gas, renewable company, or governmental (defence) branch.

How do I undertake monitoring without compromising operational downtime?


Deployment of a Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) array from a seismic vessel in the Mediterranean. © OSC 2012.

In the developed world, Marine Mammal Mitigation Plans, (MMMPs) (www.marinemammalmitigationplan.co.uk) have to work within the constraints of guidelines such as, inter alia, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). An overview of current global marine mammal mitigation guidelines can be found at www.marinemammalmitigation.co.uk. These guidelines often have “grey areas” for operations that don’t quite fit into the “standard survey”. This is where the expertise of Ocean Science Consulting’s personnel can benefit the client immensely; we have helped achieve many of our clients’ golden time targets by simply using the absolute best observers with a wide range of experience to work safely within the guidelines, without compromising the timeline of work schedule or the animals’ safety. Moreover, our personnel have undergone exceptional training over a wide-range of operations, have a zero accident record to date and are company employees. This level of experience and dedication to client satisfaction is seldom encountered with contractors through a recruitment agency; however, we do use contractors from our extensive pool of carefully tried and tested contractors when employee demand exceeds supply.

Can routine industrial monitoring be considered as research?

Ocean Science Consulting is not a recruitment agency. We are one of a handful of companies world-wide that gather as much information about marine mammals as possible in a scientifically rigorous manner without compromising our clients’ operational requirements and permit guidelines. First and foremostly, we are industrial scientists working under strict client Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). If released NDA by the client, we can produce world-class peer-reviewed research articles from work that would have ordinarily been regarded as routine monitoring as part of an industrial operation. This benefits our clients in showing good environmental stewardship and maintains the high level of science required to pass rigorous scientific peer-review. An example of such research can be seen in Ocean Science Consulting’s on-going work on harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) activity around offshore oil and gas installations. (http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/4/734.)

Why choose Ocean Science Consulting to conduct your cetacean monitoring?

Ocean Science Consulting is dedicated to raising the standard of mitigation and cetacean monitoring in the industry in general. Our employees have a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree in marine biology (or equivalent in another science discipline), and have undergone competitive pre-employment traineeships (with over 400 applicants per post), gaining valuable experience in Marine Mammal Observation and Passive Acoustic Monitoring projects world-wide. Only the best candidates succeed in achieving full-time employment within our company ensuring that the personnel service we provide is second to none.

To date, we have a 100% zero operational downtime record. Any problems encountered are solved quickly on-site by our experienced Passive Acoustic Monitoring Operators who benefit from 24 hour land-based support.

Ocean Science Consulting can provide all the services required for your cetacean monitoring studies by drawing from our  extensive range of Marine Mammal Observation and Passive Acoustic Monitoring equipment, including static hydrophones such as T-PODs (www.t-podporpoiseclickdetector.co.uk), C-PODs (www.cpodclickdetector.com), or towed hydrophone arrays (www.passiveacousticmonitoring.com). Our top of the range, 100 % redundant Passive Acoustic Monitoring systems (both towed and static) have been manufactured using the best suppliers and to a standard high above the rest. We can monitor over the low frequency calls of baleen whales to the high frequency clicks of dolphins and porpoises, and most importantly, we know and understand acoustics. Our cetacean monitoring services can be used for mitigation purposes, EIAs and/or to conduct distance sampling line transect surveys. We also undertake real-time attended noise validation monitoring during operations such as or pile-driving/conductor hammering and modelling sound propagation around drilling Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels (FPSOs) and drilling rigs (Read publication).

Incorporated in Edinburgh, Scotland, Ocean Science Consulting has been providing cetacean monitoring (and other marine environmental services) since 2004. A list of our clients can be found at www.osc.co.uk. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss cetacean monitoring for your survey, operation or project.

To learn more about Ocean Science Consulting and our work see our main website (www.osc.co.uk).

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