MMOA attends EAGE conference in Copenhagen


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






MMOA Member Launches Canadian Training Consultancy: Edgewise Environmental

headshot1EDGEWISE Environmental has been established as Canada’s first environmental consultancy focused on marine mammal observation, seabird observation and acoustic monitoring training. There exists a gap within the market of mitigation training and accreditation within Canada. With the largest coastline in the world, Edgewise believes Canada should be at the forefront of environmental protection and survey monitoring, especially as it relates to oil and gas activities.

CEO, Ashley Noseworthy recognized a gap in offshore mitigation training when she began working offshore as an MMSO. Trained in the UK, she saw the differences in Canada’s guidelines compared to those of other offshore jurisdictions. The interpretation was required and it was evident to her that a program was needed in Canada.

Mitigation measures to reduce potential effects on marine mammals are required for seismic survey operations occurring in Canadian waters. These guidelines require, that during seismic operations a “qualified” MMO must be present onboard, however, the term “qualified” is not defined. Due to a lack of standardization any current working MMO’s within Canadian jurisdiction are currently either trained abroad, under foreign regulatory guidelines or in-house, by the hiring company and then required to interpret the Canadian guidelines, sometimes, while on the job, without previous familiarity.

Frustrated by this lack of accessible, third-party, Canadian-specific training Ashley has sought to develop the first standardized MMO training and qualification program in Canada. The same lack of standardization exists in relation to Seabird Observers and PAM Operators.  

Ashley Noseworthy - Ashley is formally educated, with a BSc (Marine Biology) from Memorial University of Newfoundland and an MSc (International Marine Environmental Consultancy) from Newcastle University, completing her Master's thesis in the area of marine mammal acoustics. She has worked offshore in a variety of capacities. Globally, as an MMSO for a number of seismic operators. She spent over a decade working with captive marine mammals in the areas of marine mammal husbandry, cognition and physiology. Ashley is also a qualified sea survival and aviation ditching instructor, instructing a variety of curricula to a global audience, having taught in both Canada and Norway.

She was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the Newfoundland Environmental Industry Association and is an active member of the Marine Mammal Observer Association.

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MMOA attends ECS Conference 2018

Patrick Lyne recently attended the European Cetacean Society in La Spezia in Italy and presented a poster on Soft starts. Using the occasion to promote best practice and the MMOA. Topics for discussion were many and varied, but of particular interest to those in mitigation may be the new CMS seismic guidelines which form part of CMS resolution 12.14 adopted on October 28th and are no longer as the filename suggests a draft version. This resolution suggests a more rigorous approach to environmental assessment and mitigation than currently exists in most jurisdictions.

Next year the ECS conference will be in December and combined with SMM in a joint conference and all are encouraged to attend if they can. The conference on the Effect of Noise on Aquatic Life will also be held on the 7th to the 12th of July 2019 in Den Haag. So these are two important conferences next year in Europe.

Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017

MMOA Attends Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017

The biennual conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy was held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, between the 22nd and the 27th of October. The theme of this year’s conference was “A Canadian Odyssey – Eh!” and focused on “conservation impacts to marine mammals and the efforts to understand and ensure their continued survival.

The conference was attended by thousands of delegates and hundreds of presenters and was followed by two days of workshops which ran the gamut from “The Eight international Sirenian Symposium” to “Investigation of live large whale stranding response techniques”.

In addition to oral and poster presentations, this year’s conference included speed and video presentations as well. Exhibitors at the conference included, among others, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the non-profit “Viva Vaquita”, Irving oil, the United States Navy, Dalhousie University, and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission.

Drone technology and autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the way marine mammal research is conducted and its applicability and versatility in field research was apparent during the conference. Multiple talks on the use of a variety of autonomous vehicles and drones during marine mammal research were presented and included the use of unmanned sailing vessels to search for highly endangered North Pacific Right Whales in the Bering Sea, using rotocopters to obtain body mass condition on migrating Grey Whales off the Oregon coastline, and employing PAM “surface gliders” to detect vocalizing baleen whales off the US East Coast.

Several presentations covered Beaked Whale research, from general ecology and dive profiles to behavioural response to anthropogenic noise utilizing autonomous underwater passive acoustic platforms (i.e. underwater “gliders”). Among other interesting findings was a dive to 3675m by a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, which constitutes the deepest recorded dive by any cetacean to date.

The MMOA was represented at the conference by Executive Committee Member Peter Nilsson who presented a poster on observed avoidance behaviour of dugongs and delphinids to shallow water seismic surveys in the Arabian Gulf. The work was co-authored by several members of the MMOA including Executive Committee Chair Neil Niru Dorrian.

In summary, it was a highly successful and productive conference which brought together marine mammal researchers from around the globe and facilitated the exchange of ideas, knowledge and novel technology. Next time, the SMM conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2019 – we hope to see you there at the 2nd World Marine Mammal Conference.

MMOA Chairman Hosts Environmental Advisory Seminar at Shell Global Solutions

ShellNeil Niru Dorrian Chairman of the MMOA Executive Committee was invited to host an Environmental Advisory Seminar at Shell Global Solutions in The Hague in November 2017. Within his role as an independent advisor to Shell, Neil presented best practices and emerging technologies in Marine Mammal Monitoring. He also reviewed current industry mitigation methodologies and led discussions on potential improvements to industry standards. Finally, he reflected on the recruitment standards of offshore environmental teams and the challenges faced by this professional sector in the current context of the offshore industry. Shell adopted the MMOA Position Statements and best hiring guide during its 2016 seismic survey in Bulgaria and is supportive of the efforts of the MMOA in implementing best practices and improving standards.

MMOA committee member accredited as Registered Marine Scientist with IMarEST

Congratulations to Heather Fowle BSc Hons RMarSci MIMarEST on becoming the MMOAs latest member to become accreditied as a Registered Marine Scientist through the Marine Professionals - IMarEST

Heather RMarSci


"I have been a member of the Marine Mammal Observers Association since 2011 and I am an elected member of the Executive committee.

I took advantage of the automatic Affiliate membership (AIMarEST) of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology that is applied from being a member of the MMOA and further sought out full membership status (MIMarEST). I applied to become Registered as I am a passionate marine biologist and ecologist who has been extensively involved with conservation, environmental protection and biodiversity enhancement in marine, riparian and terrestrial environments since 1998 worldwide. I have worked as Research Assistant for the NGO CMMR Leviathan in Chile focusing on cetacean conservation and the analysis of vocalizations of Pseudorca crassidens; a Marine Mammal Medic with BDLMR and a volunteer MMO with Marine Life. I also worked to protect coral reef habitat in the Red Sea for the NGO HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection Conservation Association). I began working as an MMO/PSO in 2011 after working as a Technical Officer Biodiversity with the Environment Agency. I have been fortunate to work all around the world and strive to learn more about issues facing the marine habitat, its fauna and its conservation.

My professional recognition interview consisted of providing evidence of my experience and qualifications and my ongoing dedication to the marine environment, its protection and enhancement of biodiversity and my commitment to continuous CPD as we never stop learning".

Seiche Measurements Ltd and Atlas Professionals renew corporate sponsorship

The MMOA would like to thank Seiche Measurements Ltd and Atlas Professionals for showing their continued support for the MMOA by renewing their corporate sponshorship for another year. This is especially commendable during the current industry climate.
These companies along with our other corporate sponsors demonstrate quality and high standards in their approach and are aligned with the core values and position statements of the MMOA. 
seiche1Seiche Measurements Limited specialises in the design, development and manufacture of underwater Passive Acoustic Monitoring and acoustic measurement systems. Products and services are used for marine mammal surveys prior to wind farm construction, mitigation during pile driving and construction, oil exploration surveys, well head decommissioning, removal of unexploded ordinance and sound source measurement and analysis.
atlas pro logoAtlas Professionals is a leading supplier of marine survey personnel worldwide.Our team of fully qualified and certified MMOs and PAM operators have the practical experience necessary to ensure environmental impact mitigation compliance and minimise disruption to offshore operations. We also provide Passive Acoustic Monitoring PAM equipment, and our expert logistics team can manage visas, travel and mobilisation globally.

Shell Exploration and Production Adopt MMOA Position Statements during Seismic Survey in Bulgaria

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Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) is now being recognised as a key partner in assisting the MMO profession deliver a high standard of environmental protection on offshore projects.  
Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) is a company that regularly contracts Marine Mammal Observers and Passive Acoustic Monitoring operator services as part of a project’s Environmental Management Plan. During the Balkanide 3D survey carried in the Bulgarian sector of the Western Black Sea, Shell adopted the Marine Mammal Observer Association’s (MMOA) Position Statements and best hiring guide for contracting suitably qualified Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators.
This meant that during the tendering phase of the project Shell Exploration and Production (LIX) adopted the MMOA position statements and analysed CVs from multiple agencies and took preference in their selection by favouring evidence for: 
Relevant academic qualifications and experience in marine mammal surveys/research demonstrating a professional interest in the role.
Candidates who demonstrate Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
Candidates associated and involved with the MMOA.
Candidates with Registered/Chartered status.
Previous Black Sea experience.
We are confident that MMOs and PAM Operators who deliver a consistently reliable and high standard of professional service are an important aspect in the success of offshore projects. We want to take this opportunity to thank Shell for its commitment to maintaining standards, on behalf of the MMOA membership and the industry as a whole. 
The strength of the MMOA, and its ability to improve the MMO service, lies in its experienced membership and the support it has from the wider offshore industry including companies like Shell. 

Recognition with a Professional Institute

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To date four MMOA committee members have gone through the process of professional review with Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology (IMarEST) and successfully achieved either chartered or registered status as marine scientists. This professional status is internationally recognised and respected within the industry and beyond. The MMOA committee has worked closely with IMarEST over the last year and as a result all MMOA members are eligible for affiliate membership with IMarEST free of charge, the first step to obtaining professional recognition.
Becoming registered or chartered as a marine scientist might be easier than you think, you may already have a lot of what the Institute is looking for in your academic background, volunteering and professional development courses in related fields. If you are interested in becoming a chartered or registered marine scientist through IMarEST or any other organization, or would like some information to see what you can do to work towards it contact us by email or on the forum and we will be happy to offer advice and guidance.


For more information on IMarEST watch this Video
Some of the benefits of IMarEST membership includes:
  • Professional qualifications - Becoming Chartered or Registered certifies your competence, allows you to use certain post-nominal titles (e.g CMarSci, RMarSci) and demonstrates commitment to continued professional development. This can lead to better career prospects and the potential for higher earnings. Click here to find out how to become Chartered
  • The Marine Professional -  Members have digital access to IMarEST's monthly magazine, The Marine Profressional.  Also sign up for the weekly newsletter. Click here to sign up for IMarEST's newsletter
  • A wealth of information -  Access IMarEST's Virtual Library, an online collection of resources available via your desktop, tablet or phone. Click here to browse the library
  • Opportunities to collaborate - Access to Nexus - IMarEST's virtual branch and online collaborative environment for connecting and working with other marine professionals. Click here to access Nexus  
  • Local and global events - With a worldwide membership of over 15,000 individuals based in 100 countries there are always activites and events to take part in. On a more global scale take the opportuntiy to network with other marine professionals and support your professional development at IMarEST Conferences, Lectures, Seminars and Training Courses.Click here to find your local IMarEST branch and Click here to view the events calendar

Neil Niru Dorrian Steps in to Chair MMOA Executive Committee

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We are delighted to announce that Neil Niru Dorrian has been appointed to fill the role as Chair of our association due to a vacancy left at the last AGM. We are delighted Niru has put himself forward to help drive the association forward with his strong leadership skills and connections in the industry.
Niru is a marine mammal biologist and a registered marine scientist through the IMarEST with over 12 years’ experience in marine mammal fieldwork, conservation and media. He is experienced in cetacean survey methods, including PAM and photo ID. 
The past decade has seen him work on over 40 offshore projects around the world. He is currently working as an Environmental Advisor within high profile marine protected sites and is the co-founding Director of Whalefish an international not for profit marine research and conservation organisation. 
He also has extensive experience in stranding research, rescue and rehabilitation of delphinid and pinniped species and works regularly with international stranding organisations alongside his work with the MMOA.

Ed Oliver Joins the MMOA Executive Committee

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We are delighted to welcome Ed Oliver as the 11th committee member to the association. We had one vacant place left and we are delighted Ed put himself forward to help drive the association forward.
Ed is a highly experienced PAM Operator and has a wealth of offshore experience in this role.  In addition to his offshore mitigation work, Ed also worked for Seiche Ltd carrying out numerous PAM installations internationally, managing remote monitoring and providing technical support. At Seiche Ed was heavily involved with the writing and delivery of PAM training courses.
Ed's strong IT skills and experience of web-based support means that he will no doubt be a valuable and active member of the committee, able to assist and trouble shoot any potential issues with the MMOA web page and other technical issues. We are happy to welcome him into the MMOA Executive Committee.

An Open Letter To Our Members and Marine Mammal Mitigation Stakeholders

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An Open Letter To Our Members and Marine Mammal Mitigation Stakeholders


The Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) have become aware that rates paid to many contractors engaged by the oil and gas industry have fallen significantly over recent months. While the MMOA recognise that this is a natural consequence of industry contraction, we are concerned that the emphasis on maintaining high environmental standards may start to decline. Regardless of rates paid the MMOA stress that it is important to ensure that:

  • Only suitably qualified, experienced and dedicated personnel should be hired as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators.
  • MMO/PAM mitigation training certificates should not be the only requirement to qualify a person as a MMO or PAM Operator, in addition, appropriate field experience is required.

High industry standards in other areas of operation should be mirrored in mitigation compliance. Mitigation personnel should have experience in seismic survey methods and protected species mitigation, including Passive Acoustics Monitoring (where applicable). Employing inexperienced and unqualified personnel should only be done in a limited capacity and under supervision of experienced personnel.

The MMOA and New Zealand's DOC join forces once again to host a workshop at the 21st Biennial Marine Mammal Conference.

In December 2015 the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals was held in San Francisco, California. The conference was one of the largest in its 40-year history and saw over 2500 attendees from 80 countries and over 1000 presentations including talks, speed talks and over 500 posters.

Prior to the official start of the Conference two days of workshops were held including the MMOAs workshop on 'Incorporating new mitigation technologies into guidelines for seismic surveys and other underwater acoustic activities and producing performance standards', co-hosted once again with Dr. Andrew Wright from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (with the support of Mel Cosentino from Wild Earth Foundation). This workshop followed on from the very successful workshop the MMOA and New Zealand’s DOC hosted at the 29th European Cetacean Society Conference in Malta in March 2015.

The workshop in San Francisco was attended by over 50 people representing government, industry, environmental consultants, non-profit and academia. Professional MMOs and PAM Operators were also present, including at least 7 members of the MMOA.

MMOA & New Zealand DoC Publish Proceedings of ECS Workshop

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.

MMOA partners with The Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology to develop professional development opportunities for MMOs


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. 

Unusual Mortality Event: Why are these California sea lion pups stranding?

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. 

Marine mammal mitigation workshop at the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

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 - Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback Whales to Seismic Surveys

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.

Glasgow low visibility workshop and the All Energy Exhibition

In early May MMOA Committee Member Patrick Lyne attended the All Energy Exhibition in Glasgow. Prior to the exhibition Patrick presented at a workshop on low visibility detection for mitigation, organized by SMRU Consulting with representatives from Gardline, PGS and Fugro as well as the presenters. Presentations were heard from Phil Johnston (Seiche) on Infra Red systems, Remote PAM and using linked PAM systems on wide azimuth surveys as well as unmanned surface vehicles. Patrick (IWDG/MMOA) discussed soft start, the mitigation gun as well as PAM and Infra Red systems, Philippe Hubert (Prove Systems) covered underwater Infra Red, and Richard Adams (CodaOctopus) discussed multi-beam use for detection.Following presentations an information gathering session began where all known low visibility monitoring methods were listed along with suppliers. How these systems might be evaluated for detection and mitigation was also discussed. The eventual aim is to report and publish a paper by the autumn of 2016 on Low Visibility Detection Methods and their viability for oil and gas mitigation.

New technologies for marine mammal mitigation at the 29th European Cetacean Society Conference

In March the MMOA co-hosted a workshop at the 29th European Cetacean Society Conference in Malta, alongside  Dr. Andrew Wright and New Zealand's Department of Conservation to discuss new mitigation technologies and current acoustic exposure guidelines. 

The workshop proved a great success with over 50 delegates. Representatives from nearly every marine mammal mitigation stakeholder group were present, including the oil and gas sector, the Joint Industry Program, E & P Sound and Marine Life Program, government agencies and regulators, MMO and PAM Operator agencies, MMO and PAM Operators themselves, marine mammal scientists, acousticians, and NGOs. Many delegates flew to Malta solely to attend our workshop. To gather such an array of interested groups is a rare feat, but highlights the interest and importance of improving marine mammal mitigation efforts around the world. 

About the Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA)

mmoa footer logoThe Marine Mammal Observer Association (MMOA) is a membership based association with the aim of bringing together and representing individuals who work commercially and professionally as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators who implement mitigation measures to protect marine life during industry operations. The MMOA also provides information to other individuals that have an interest in MMO issues.