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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"We started out as the Institute of Marine Engineers in 1889.

In 1999, we took the exciting step of opening up membership to not only engineers but also to marine scientists and marine technologists.

These terms are quite broad, but what they really aim to encompass is anyone who uses marine knowledge professionally. We want marine professionals - whatever their discipline - to be working together. That’s the only real way we can tackle the challenges facing humanity over the next century.

With complex issues such as climate change and artificial intelligence to contend with, we need all our best minds connected with each other, no matter where they are in the world.

This is why the Institute exists. To ensure these minds can bring about our vision of a world where oceans and marine resources are sustainably managed in the face of rapid physical and technological changes.

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Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) has partnered with the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), the world’s largest international marine professional body, to help influence policy and improve understanding of issues relating to marine mammal mitigation.

This comes after 4 years of collaboration between the IMarEST and the MMOA and will continue to bring a wealth of benifits to our membership! by joining the 'Marine Partnership' programme this will further strengthen our position as an international association in the marine sector.

The partnership between MMOA and the IMarEST will additionally help facilitate the formation of a new IMarEST Special Interest Group on marine mammals and to further the Institute’s mission of safe and sustainable oceans.


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MMOA Executive Committee Member Gary Robinson recently attended the annual EAGE conference in Copenhagen on behalf of the MMOA with a focus on a workshop dedicated to ‘The effects of seismic surveys on the marine environment’. 

This workshop aimed to stimulate discussion with experts on the effect of anthropogenic sound on marine life, environmental legislation, industry best practices, underwater sound propagation, latest technological advances and on-going research programmes. A key interest from the MMOA in this workshop was highlighting the importance of utilizing qualified and relevantly experienced MMOs to key industry stakeholders to provide continued support to the rapidly advancing technological drive. 

Gary was active in discussions on the efficacy of current monitoring and mitigation technologies, mitigation planning and the importance of harmonizing technologies with MMOs in the field and the importance of engaging with experienced MMOs to inform and implement mitigation procedures.

The take-home message from this workshop was that whilst there still remains some uncertainty with the nature and severity of underwater noise impacts on marine mammals, it is important to continue developing technology in harmony with current research as well as seismic field experience, and not lose sight of the importance of having experience MMOs in the field and engage with industry stakeholders and researchers






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