Position Statement 4: Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) Qualifications

The Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) emphasises that a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) or Protected Species Observer (PSO) mitigation training certificate should not be the only requirement to qualify a person as a MMO/PSO on a mitigation survey. A MMO/PSO requires all of the following skills to be able to complete their job professionally and competently:

  • A good attitude to conducting watches of concentrated effort, often for long days and several consecutive weeks – evidence of work experience where this has been proven such as previous surveys at sea or long periods in the field conducting surveys or monitoring work. Attitude/enthusiasm may also be determined via feedback from previous employers or colleagues.
  • Ability and experience to identify the specific SoC known to occur within the region of the survey and for which mitigation measures apply – evidence of previous experience, for example researching marine mammals at sea, working as a naturalist guide at sea, conducting cetacean surveys or time spent at sea where marine mammal experience has been achieved. This experience should be of an appropriate length of time to have gained the skills to be competent at identifying marine mammal species.
  • Ability to make accurate estimates of range at sea – through prior at-sea experience during at sea surveys or theoretical training through appropriate training courses. This experience must include the use of appropriate equipment such as reticle binoculars, clinometers, range sticks or other proven equipment to obtain such estimates of range.
  • A thorough understanding of the mitigation requirements of the area or project – through appropriate training from a regulator approved training course or from client/employer created training courses (where regulator approved courses are not available) and from the provision of a detailed Mitigation Plan (MP) and project EIA for every project.
  • Ability to make decisions quickly and to convey the necessary mitigation information to the crew concisely, politely, objectively and firmly – personnel working as an MMO/PSO should be independent and should have the character and confidence to make correct mitigating decisions under pressure. Such characteristics might be gauged via feedback from previous employers or colleagues.
  • Experience of recording data in a scientific and accurate manner – through a formal academic qualification or through work experience where this was achieved (in the latter case references should be sought).
  • Experience of assimilating data, basic data analysis and writing reports – through a formal academic qualification or through work experience where this was achieved (in the latter case references should be sought). A good command of the common language (usually English) in use on the project is essential for this purpose.
  • Ability to work in a team and communicate well – such characteristics might be gauged via feedback from previous employers or colleagues.
  • Aspire to improve their skills as an MMO/PSO and to further their knowledge – belong to a professional body such as the MMOA or other appropriate professional body where information and code of practice is promoted. Attend training courses and refreshers to improve knowledge and skill through continuing professional development programmes.

A Client hiring MMOs for a mitigation survey through a MMO/PSO provider company (personnel agency) should request this standard of MMO/PSO qualification in order to promote a professional standard in their environmental objectives.

Benefits of hiring professional MMO/PSOs with all of the above skills

The MMOA emphasises that the use of MMO/PSOs who meet the above professional standards is likely to confer a number of benefits for the clients of mitigation surveys, both in terms of proving compliance with mitigation requirements and maintaining a positive environment on-board the platform. These potential benefits include:

  • Client confidence in meeting environmental requirements.
  • A professional working attitude by the MMO/PSO on board the platform, ensuring courteous interactions with crew, appropriate chains of command are followed and good cooperation is achieved when mitigation measures are required.
  • Accurate identification of SoC to species level (where possible) which ensures that species-specific mitigation measures are implemented correctly and potentially avoids erroneous mitigation measures that may be costly to the survey.
  • Ability (based on previous experience and correct use of field equipment) to make accurate distance estimates, which may avoid unnecessary disruption to the survey.
  • Collection of standardised, high-quality data that serves to prove compliance with mitigation requirements and may additionally contribute to robust scientific analysis.
  • Knowledge and experience to answer questions that arise during the survey, and to guide the crew through the required mitigation measures clearly and concisely to avoid error and confusion


This is one of ten position statements produced by the MMOA. All of the MMOA Position Statements are available for download in a single document in addition to viewing on this website. To download this document please click here.

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