Between 7 and 13 December 2013, I was able to attend the 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals at the Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand.

At the start of the conference there were two days of workshops, all of which were very interesting and made it difficult to choose! Personally, I choose to participate in “Best practice principles for monitoring the effect of coastal development on marine mammals” and “Cognition and Self-awareness in Cetaceans: A review of ethical implications for conservation laws”, two very intriguing and interesting topics, which made the days go by quickly! This weekend of workshops ended with the IceBreaker at the Museum of Otago, where we were able to come together and catch up with all the friends and colleagues that had arrived by that time.

In January 2014 Sarah Barry of the Executive Committee independently attended the first advanced PAMGuard course. PAMGuard is one of the leading research and industry PAM software for real-time data collection and offline analysis. The developers of PAMGuard offer several different courses including an Introduction to PAMGuard and practical PAMGuard courses and now a two-day classroom-based course which enables those with previous PAMGuard experience to get to grips with more advanced features, in particular offline analysis and data management. The courses have a high tutor-to-student ratio to ensure participants are able to receive individual assistance with their training requirements.

The advanced course included some core analysis modules and participants were able to explore the advanced functions in viewer mode. Participants were also able to tailor training to their particular needs by selecting from a range of optional modules including how to use complex classifiers such as Whistle Detection and Classification, High Resolution Localisation, Target Motion Localisation, Data Management, Noise Monitoring, and MATLAB library.

These modules were all very interesting, and useful for research and offline analysis, but not appropriate for PAM operators using PAMGuard for real time mitigational purposes. However, a module that showed how the automatic field data logging program Logger can be used within PAMGuard did prove to be interesting and relevant for mitigation. This may prove to be a useful tool for collecting sightings data alongside PAM. Using Logger, it is also possible to design any number of forms for manual input of data so all data required by standardised forms (JIP, JNCC) could be entered relatively easily.

Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is heavily dependent upon these resources. Offshore oil exploration surrounding the Trinidad and Tobago archipelago has been undertaken for many years with 39 deep water (12,000 feet or more) blocks established.

The Environmental Management Authority, a Trinidad and Tobago government authority, put out an open request for proposals early in 2013 which attracted numerous local and international bids. Oceanwatch Marine Mammal Observer Services Ltd, based in Trinidad, won this bid process to develop seismic survey guidelines for the Trinidad and Tobago archipelago.

The MMOA is delighted to hear of this development as it is our policy to encourage countries to formulate mitigation measures specific to their waters and the species that will be encountered.

In just over a week, from 9 to 13 December, the Society of Marine Mammalogy is holding its 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Dunedin, New Zealand. This biennial conference, held every two years, is a gathering of marine mammal scientists from all over the world.

This year’s theme is “Marine Mammal Conservation: Science making a Difference”, and so far over 1000 attendees from more than 30 countries have been registered, executing 357 talks and over 400 poster presentations. Besides these planned activities, two large panel discussions will be held on Human Killing Methods and Scientific studies of Captive and Free-living Killer Whales, with the goal to provide an overview of the scientific data available on these topics, and to offer an opportunity for experts to discuss these matters.

NOAA Fisheries is using today’s modern technology to improve marine mammal conservation. They do so through the launch of 2 different smart phone apps.

See & Id Dolphins & Whales

The Dolphin & Whale 911 app was produced to enhance the accurate and timely reporting of stranded marine mammals in the Southearstern U.S. NOAA Fisheries has noticed over the years there is a general lack of awareness on how to report stranded marine mammals, which leads to delayed and inaccurate responses, compromising the animal’s chance of survival or limiting the amount of data that can be gathered from the already dead animals. NOAA Fisheries aims to facilitate the public’s response by providing valuable information on smartphones, including a colourful species identification guide, who to call in case of encountering a stranded marine mammal and what to do in first instance.

Specifically, the app allows you to

  1. report dead, injured or entangled marine mammals by connecting you to the nearest stranding response hotline.
  2. send a picture of the marine mammal along with GPS coordinates to the marine mammal stranding network.
  3. identify the species by providing an electronic field guide of marine mammals found in the Southeast U.S.
  4. help stranded marine mammals by providing a list of “do’s” & “don’ts” and tips on what to do.
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