Position Statement 10: The Conduct of Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators during Offshore Operations
This section is aimed at providing guidance to MMOs and PAM Operators (hereafter the ‘mitigation team’) on their conduct during offshore operations. It is also aimed at providing guidance to MMO/PAM providers and Clients regarding the personnel they hire.
Knowledge of Regulatory Requirements
The mitigation team has a duty to ensure they are familiar with all documentation outlining mitigation procedures (including regulatory guidelines and/or those conditions specified in project approvals and permits) prior to the project start. They should ensure they always have this documentation to hand and consult it regularly. On arrival at the platform or at the start up meeting, the mitigation team should provide a short summary of the mitigation requirements to the key personnel on the platform. They should be able to answer questions quickly and confidently about the mitigation procedures without having to refer back to the documentation.
The mitigation team should always ensure they will be on time for their watches. They should perform their observation and monitoring duties to the best of their abilities. At all times during their watches they should remain diligent. MMOs should have professional binoculars (good light gathering ability, waterproof, suitable magnification for scanning at sea, wide field of view and range estimation ability is recommended) which they should use to scan the mitigation zone, and adjacent waters, regularly. It is the MMO’s responsibility to ensure that they are aware of any specific requirements with regard to what type of binoculars are required for the country they are working in (for example, some countries require the use of reticulated binoculars). Data recording should be prompt and observations resumed as soon as possible. PAM Operators should remain at their station and remain wholly focused on monitoring PAM software and listening to acoustic signals.
Recording Data and Species Identification
The mitigation team should be diligent in the recording of data. All entries should be as accurate as possible and without subjectivity. They should have appropriate identification books/cameras if applicable to aid them with species determination. The MMOA emphasises that species identifications should never be guessed at - this practice does not benefit anyone and renders the data unreliable and unfit for data analysis. The lowest definite category of identification should be adopted as the formally reported species identification at all times. In other words ‘definite dolphin species’ is more appropriate than ‘possible bottlenose dolphin’, although the latter can also be noted in the Comments column. The MMOA stresses that no pressure should be placed on the mitigation team to always make a positive species identification. On the contrary, this is often not possible due to the nature of marine fauna and the often challenging viewing conditions at sea.
Accurate Range Determination
The mitigation team should estimate range as accurately as is possible given the prevailing conditions. MMOs should have suitable equipment (reticulated binoculars, inclinometers or range sticks) to determine range and PAM Operators should have sufficient knowledge to interpret PAM software to determine range (when the software permits).
Use of Handheld Radios
The mitigation team should use handheld radios in accordance to the platforms protocol (i.e. using the platforms working channel and following radio good practice). They should remember that communications must be kept to the minimum and that instructions must be clear and decisive. They should always check that their radios are charged and on the correct channel, and should not compromise communication by listening to loud music. They should not have disputes over the radio.
Taking Mitigating Actions
The mitigation team should adhere strictly to the mitigation procedures determined prior to the project. They should advise on mitigation actions in a clear, concise and polite manner to the platform’s crew, and ensure that measures are implemented swiftly.
In any cases of non-compliance the mitigation team should adhere to the communication protocol established by the Client. They will remain calm, professional and respectful in these situations. For transparency the mitigation team should log in detail the sequence of events of any non compliance in case future disputes arise.
The mitigation team should report honestly and concisely the details of their observation/monitoring effort, weather conditions, gun activity, sightings/acoustic detections and the platform’s adherence to the mitigation procedures determined prior to the project. Reports should be submitted within the agreed timeframe.
Respect Data Confidentiality
The mitigation team should be aware that they are working for an operation with sensitive data and will respect this. No information should be distributed without following the correct reporting protocol determined prior to the project.
Respecting Safety Policies
During certain operations or exercises on the platform the mitigation team should be aware that they may be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or be excluded from areas. They should select their work area within appropriate safety boundaries. If they are unsure about any activity or workspace they should ask the Captain, Chief Officer or Party Manager first. The mitigation team are aware that they are expected to attend safety drills and any safety meetings when requested. If they need to be exempt from these because they must be on watch, they will clear this first with the Captain or Chief Officer.
The mitigation team should dress appropriately for their role. This means in cold climates they should have appropriate warm and waterproof clothing for observation outside. In warm climates they should wear suitable clothing and sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
Remain Professional at all Times
Even when the mitigation team are off watch they will act professionally. They will consider the close working environment on-board the platform. They will not distract other crew members from their duties and will be aware that people may be asleep during the day and that they may need to be quiet in certain areas of the platform.
Being Part of a Team
The mitigation team may comprise of several MMO and PAM Operaters who will be expected to work as a team. The mitigation team will respect the person who has been assigned to lead this team and the duties they have to perform. They will be supportive at all times. The mitigation team should also be aware that for the period of time they are on the platform they are also part of the platforms crew and on board community.
Aspire to Improve their Knowledge and Professionalism
The mitigation team will seek to improve their skills and knowledge of their profession. Continuing Professional Development should be pursued as is the case with other professions. If possible, the mitigation team will join a professional affiliation such as The Marine Mammal Observer Association (www.mmo-association.org) and attend training courses to update their knowledge and expertise. They will keep up-to-date with developments and publications regarding marine mammals and noise. Their skill as an MMO/PAM Operator will be enhanced by the knowledge of how operations work on the platform – and they will make an effort to learn more about wider offshore operations.
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