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This year’s ECS conference was held in Belgium where a key area of interest was on the impact of anthropogenic noise in the marine environment. This topic attracted many MMOs to attend the conference. Prior to the conference a series of workshops of specialized subjects were also held. Two of these workshops were of particular interest to the MMOA, including a full day’s workshop on the impact of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals and a workshop on conservation issues for marine mammals in South America.

The aim of the anthropogenic noise workshop was to develop accurate and scientific based advice for regulators. During the workshop, specialists like Peter Tyack, Roger Gentry, Michel Andre and Peter Evans presented some of their work, which resulted in an interesting debate on (Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) and Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS) levels as they become increasingly species dependent.  Overall, many issues worth considering were raised –final results of the discussions will be published in the near future.

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.

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