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.
There was a talk by Mick Baines on the use of Kosmos seismic data that showed the temporal and spatial distribution of baleen whales in the Northeast Atlantic, which was particularly interesting. This showed presence of baleen whales in Mauritania and Senegal is higher during the months December and February. Temporal mitigation may be a requirement for this period, and it is hoped that industry and regulators would plan seismic surveys accordingly. It is indeed great that Mick Baines, in partnership with Kosmos were able to publish this data and make future recommendations.
I was delighted to see a poster from Laura Pintore and colleagues in WWF Italy, University of Turin and
the CNR Lab (Italian National Research Council) on ethograms and the study of standardised description of whale behaviours. This broke whale behaviours down into five categories travelling, socialising, milling, feeding and resting. This serves to further categorise behaviours in a way that was discussed last year in the webinar hosted by the MMOA with guest speaker Dr. Brandon Southall, to catch up on this watch the talk on our YouTube. It is great to see others seeking to further categorise behaviours as this can lead to further research.
Of the posters presented, the one of greatest interest to marine mammal observers (MMOs) will be poster 157. This poster provided suggestions on how to improve minimum standards for marine mammal observation by Raquel Soley, Chris Parsons, Sarah Dolman, Fiona Read, Amber Beerman and Caroline Weir. The points to note were focused on the problems that besets effective mitigation. The solution suggested is to set up an ECS committee responsible for the promotion of standards. The committee would certify minimum requirements of trained MMOs. Currently, the UN and various bodies decide on standards and international agreements, but laws are very difficult to enforce, and it can be difficult finding the right people to apply these standards. The argument can be read here.
I felt that there was a lot of talking done and it was fantastic to see some exciting new research and old methods being well used. The conversations were engaging, and difficult topics were raised so I will be following the news and insights over the next few months. I recommend this conference to cetacean enthusiasts, researchers and offshore personnel as there was something for all.