The European Cetacean Society (ECS) conference was held in Galicia, Spain from 16th till 20th April 2023. Patrick Lyne, a committee member of the MMOA, was fortunate to attend and has some fascinating insights from the event, below are his words from his time spent in Galicia.

The conference was and is always a great place to meet up with old friends and new. It is also a great opportunity to learn about new findings in the field of cetacean research, discover the new methods that are being used for data collection or analyses and the changes that are being introduced globally. The conference consisted of events such as lectures, poster presentations and workshops. 

When it came to the workshops, it was hard to choose, and I could not attend everything I would have liked as they were all very interesting. I presented a workshop that was titled ‘The use of Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) in the attainment of Good Environmental Status (GES) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)’ where I delivered a short talk on minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) recordings in Irish waters. After the workshop we had a thorough discussion about how authorities can use PAM to determine background noise and help understand how marine mammals use sound, their environment and how anthropogenic noise is impacting them. It was great to hear about the plans to commence acoustic baseline surveys in the French Bay of Biscay in the next few years. 

MMOA Member Gordon Foot is The Ocean Cleanup senior offshore representative and is also a certified MMO/PAM. He is assisting his colleagues Carolina Azevedo (Environmental Coordinator), Sebastian Orue (PSO) and Ana Muzio(PSO) during 24/7 mitigation efforts to ensure compliance to the environmental management plan and, most importantly, looking out for our seaborne friends. It is one considerable team effort with the ship’s crews joining in and keeping a watchful eye out. Observers are critical to our mission, and it is truly an international effort! The team are often joined by albatross, which keeps us company as ‘Jenny’ helps clear the ocean of plastics. 

The MMOA Committee were invited along with other stakeholders and interested parties to attend the Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) workshop run by the BEIS (UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee JNCC.  Committee members Mike Ambler, Carolyn Barton, Heather Fowle, Patrick Lyne, Ashley Noseworthy & Gary Robinson attended over the two days. 

COVID-19 and the Marine Mammal Mitigation Industry

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is a pneumonia of unknown cause first detected in Wuhan, China and reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 31st December 2019. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30thJanuary 2020 as the spread of the virus became global. 

In March, as the spread of the disease continued to gather pace, the Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) forum received its first COVID-19 related post as it seemed the then epidemic would only get worse and MMOA members became concerned for the impact of the virus on the Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) industry. These concerns were soon validated as the number of cases and the number of affected countries continued to climb, prompting the WHO to declare it a pandemic on 11th March; a pandemic within which we are still well and truly embroiled. All but everything came to a grinding halt, worldwide stock markets reported their largest weekly declines since the 2008 financial crisis and the socio-economic realities started to hit home. As ill-prepared countries became concerned at the rate of infection both overseas and at home, borders closed, internal travel bans were imposed and lockdown on all but essential travel outside of the home were put in place. 

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MMOA Chair Niru Dorrian recently attended the 2019 AEECoW annual conference in Lanarkshire Scotland. The AEECoW is the qualifying body for Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (ECoW). AEECoW has been developed to raise professional standards amongst those providing ECoW services whilst promoting ECoWs as valuable members of site development teams.

This year delegates met at the University of West Scotland's new Lanarkshire Campus for a day of talks and workshops, aimed at furthering the development of the ECoW role. Speakers included SNH, SEPA, Fairhurst, South Lanarkshire Council, Naturally Compliant, Land Use Consultants, Wills Bros Civil Engineering, CIEEM and Scottish Renewables. With representatives from all parts of the ECoW community - regulators, clients, contractors and practitioners - the conference represents an excellent opportunity to learn, contribute and network.   

The Environmental Clerk of Works role share many similarities to the MMO role and with more and more marine construction projects around the UK taking place there will be a ongoing requirement for these roles to work together in collaboration. 

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