In October 2015 the final Proceedings of the ECS Workshop New Mitigation Methods and Evolving Acoustic Explosure Guidelines were published. The proceedings, edited by Andrew Wright of New Zealand's Deparment of Conservation and Frances Robertson, current MMOA Chair, provides a combination of abstracts and short papers by those presenting at the workshop in Malta. The proceedings end with a summary of the workshop's afternoon discussion session -this summary also includes a list of the key points raised by workshop participants.

The workshop participants and organizers concluded that performance standards are key to addressing current and developting mitigation methods. It is surprising that to date there has been little assessment of the effectiveness of commonly applied mitigation methods -namely MMO and PAM methods and there are no specific standards to which these traditional methods are held. This makes it incredibly difficult to assess the effectiveness of new mitigation technologies. The report highlights the resounding need for minimum standards in terms of qualifications and experience of MMOs and PAM Operators, thier equipment and mitigation/data collection protocols. For example better data collection and reporting protocols would allow regulators greater opportunities to assess the effectiveness of different PAM systems and settings, as well as the effectiveness of MMO-based mitigation compared to PAM-based mitigation.


The MMOA and the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology (IMarEST) have been working together to develop a professional partnership in order to support the professional development of the MMOA and it's members. This partnership is being kick-started by an incredible offer to all MMOA members of complimentary membership to the IMarEST for one year. 

What does this partnership mean for the MMOA?

  • Industry Recognition
  • Professional Accreditations
  • CPD (Career Professional Development) support and guidance
  • Access to IMarEST publications and resources

What is professional development and how does it affect our industry? 

"Any activitiy that strengthens knowledge that can be applied to an occupational role is classed as CPD. The term encompasses attending conferences, professional workshops, short courses, internships and even volunteering opportunities. It is an opportunity not just to refresh skills, but to demonstrate dedication to a cause thorugh actions."

Working together with IMarEST we hope to promote recognition of our members who have a proved track record of professional developement and meet a high standard of commitment to thier field to the relevent sectors, including industry and agencies. THis is just one more step in improving Marine Mammal Mitigation standards and that of the personnel working in the field as MMOs and PAM operators. 

Working with the Santa Barbara -based CIMWI (Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute) and Whalefish, I have been assisting regularly with the stranding program of sea lion pups along the Californian coast.  As part of a joint statewide rescue and research team the findings to date indicate that a likely contributor to the large number of stranded, malnourished pups has been a change in the availability of sea lion prey, especially sardines, a high value food source for nursing mothers.  This year alone there have been over 2600 unusual mortality events for the whole coast and stranding network.  CIMWI on its own have rescued over 320+ animals this year, predominantly California sea lions. 

In this case, a collective investigation overseen by NOAA has determined that warmer ocean temperatures had forced fish to move further offshore, thereby forcing the sea lion mothers to swim further out and effectively abandon thier young.  This resulted in thousands of pups being left emaciated, dehydrated and confused. 

The MMOA  are once again working with Dr. Andrew Wright and the New Zealand Department of Conservation to host a workshop on marine mammal mitigation methods at the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. The workshop, 'Incorporating new mitigation technologies into guidelines for seismic surveys and other underwater acoustic activities: Producing performance standards', will be an all day workshop on Sunday 13 December. 

BRAHSS LogoBRAHSS - Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback whales to Seismic Surveys, is a 6 year collaborative study, investigating the effects of seismic airguns on the behaviour of humpback whales during migration. The study aims to assess how humpback whales respond to seismic airguns during seismic surveys. It is one of the largest and most complex behavioural response studies ever undertaken on cetaceans. BRAHSS is a collaboration between the Universities of Queensland, Sydney, Curtin University and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, and field work included participants from several other organisations and volunteers. 

This project as a whole aims to provide information that will reduce the uncertainty in evaluating impacts of seismic surveys on humpback whales, leading to management and mitigation measures that allow surveys to be conducted efficiently with minimum impact on the whales.

Peregian beach, two hours north of Brisbane, has been a hub of humpback whale research on the east coast of Australia since 2002 when a project known as HARC – the Humpback whale Acoustic Research Collaboration – started there.  In many ways BRAHSS has become an extension of HARC, building on the data sets and methodologies developed from 2002-2009 field seasons, but also including significant additional acoustic measurements. BRAHSS is a Behavioural Response Study (BRS) otherwise known as a Controlled Exposure Experiment (CEE), the aim of which is to help us better understand how humpback whales respond to sounds from seismic air guns. To assess behavioural responses accurately we need to know how the whales’ responses might differ from those produced by natural stimuli (e.g. wind generated sea noise, conspecific sounds) or other anthropogenic sounds (e.g. passing ships and recreational vessels), and how social context might affect their responses. Singing whales, particularly their interactions with other non-singing conspecifics, will also be studied as part of BRAHSS. The data collection includes collecting behavioural data on whales as they move through the study area, conducting real-time, simultaneous acoustic and visual tracking of whales, exposure to real seismic air guns, the deployment of DTAGs, and the collection of fluke photographs and skin biopsies.  The sound field is measured at many points throughout the study area to provide acoustic characterisation of the site and sound propagation.

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