MMOA Attends Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017

The biennual conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy was held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, between the 22nd and the 27th of October. The theme of this year’s conference was “A Canadian Odyssey – Eh!” and focused on “conservation impacts to marine mammals and the efforts to understand and ensure their continued survival.

The conference was attended by thousands of delegates and hundreds of presenters and was followed by two days of workshops which ran the gamut from “The Eight international Sirenian Symposium” to “Investigation of live large whale stranding response techniques”.

In addition to oral and poster presentations, this year’s conference included speed and video presentations as well. Exhibitors at the conference included, among others, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the non-profit “Viva Vaquita”, Irving oil, the United States Navy, Dalhousie University, and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission.

Drone technology and autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the way marine mammal research is conducted and its applicability and versatility in field research was apparent during the conference. Multiple talks on the use of a variety of autonomous vehicles and drones during marine mammal research were presented and included the use of unmanned sailing vessels to search for highly endangered North Pacific Right Whales in the Bering Sea, using rotocopters to obtain body mass condition on migrating Grey Whales off the Oregon coastline, and employing PAM “surface gliders” to detect vocalizing baleen whales off the US East Coast.

Several presentations covered Beaked Whale research, from general ecology and dive profiles to behavioural response to anthropogenic noise utilizing autonomous underwater passive acoustic platforms (i.e. underwater “gliders”). Among other interesting findings was a dive to 3675m by a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, which constitutes the deepest recorded dive by any cetacean to date.

The MMOA was represented at the conference by Executive Committee Member Peter Nilsson who presented a poster on observed avoidance behaviour of dugongs and delphinids to shallow water seismic surveys in the Arabian Gulf. The work was co-authored by several members of the MMOA including Executive Committee Chair Neil Niru Dorrian.

In summary, it was a highly successful and productive conference which brought together marine mammal researchers from around the globe and facilitated the exchange of ideas, knowledge and novel technology. Next time, the SMM conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2019 – we hope to see you there at the 2nd World Marine Mammal Conference.

ShellNeil Niru Dorrian Chairman of the MMOA Executive Committee was invited to host an Environmental Advisory Seminar at Shell Global Solutions in The Hague in November 2017. Within his role as an independent advisor to Shell, Neil presented best practices and emerging technologies in Marine Mammal Monitoring. He also reviewed current industry mitigation methodologies and led discussions on potential improvements to industry standards. Finally, he reflected on the recruitment standards of offshore environmental teams and the challenges faced by this professional sector in the current context of the offshore industry. Shell adopted the MMOA Position Statements and best hiring guide during its 2016 seismic survey in Bulgaria and is supportive of the efforts of the MMOA in implementing best practices and improving standards.

Congratulations to Heather Fowle BSc Hons RMarSci MIMarEST on becoming the MMOAs latest member to become accreditied as a Registered Marine Scientist through the Marine Professionals - IMarEST

Heather RMarSci


"I have been a member of the Marine Mammal Observers Association since 2011 and I am an elected member of the Executive committee.

I took advantage of the automatic Affiliate membership (AIMarEST) of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology that is applied from being a member of the MMOA and further sought out full membership status (MIMarEST). I applied to become Registered as I am a passionate marine biologist and ecologist who has been extensively involved with conservation, environmental protection and biodiversity enhancement in marine, riparian and terrestrial environments since 1998 worldwide. I have worked as Research Assistant for the NGO CMMR Leviathan in Chile focusing on cetacean conservation and the analysis of vocalizations of Pseudorca crassidens; a Marine Mammal Medic with BDLMR and a volunteer MMO with Marine Life. I also worked to protect coral reef habitat in the Red Sea for the NGO HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection Conservation Association). I began working as an MMO/PSO in 2011 after working as a Technical Officer Biodiversity with the Environment Agency. I have been fortunate to work all around the world and strive to learn more about issues facing the marine habitat, its fauna and its conservation.

My professional recognition interview consisted of providing evidence of my experience and qualifications and my ongoing dedication to the marine environment, its protection and enhancement of biodiversity and my commitment to continuous CPD as we never stop learning".

The MMOA would like to thank Seiche Measurements Ltd and Atlas Professionals for showing their continued support for the MMOA by renewing their corporate sponshorship for another year. This is especially commendable during the current industry climate.
These companies along with our other corporate sponsors demonstrate quality and high standards in their approach and are aligned with the core values and position statements of the MMOA. 
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Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) is now being recognised as a key partner in assisting the MMO profession deliver a high standard of environmental protection on offshore projects.  
Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) is a company that regularly contracts Marine Mammal Observers and Passive Acoustic Monitoring operator services as part of a project’s Environmental Management Plan. During the Balkanide 3D survey carried in the Bulgarian sector of the Western Black Sea, Shell adopted the Marine Mammal Observer Association’s (MMOA) Position Statements and best hiring guide for contracting suitably qualified Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators.
This meant that during the tendering phase of the project Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) adopted the MMOA position statements and analysed CVs from multiple agencies and took preference in their selection by favouring evidence for: 
Relevant academic qualifications and experience in marine mammal surveys/research demonstrating a professional interest in the role.
Candidates who demonstrate Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
Candidates associated and involved with the MMOA.
Candidates with Registered/Chartered status.
Previous Black Sea experience.
We are confident that MMOs and PAM Operators who deliver a consistently reliable and high standard of professional service are an important aspect in the success of offshore projects. We want to take this opportunity to thank Shell for its commitment to maintaining standards, on behalf of the MMOA membership and the industry as a whole. 
The strength of the MMOA, and its ability to improve the MMO service, lies in its experienced membership and the support it has from the wider offshore industry including companies like Shell. 

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