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Marine Mammal Observers

A Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) is a qualified professional who is responsible for implementing mitigation measures to protect marine life during industrial activities that generate underwater noise.

A Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) is a qualified professional who is responsible for implementing mitigation measures to protect marine life during industrial activities that generate underwater noise. Because of the increased concern over the effects of high levels of man-made noise emitted into the ocean, the main role of a Marine Mammal Observer is to advise and implement guidelines set out to reduce the possible risk of disturbance and injury to marine mammals and marine turtles. Protected Species Observers (PSO) and Marine Mammal & Seabird Observers (MMSO) have similar roles and are required in some offshore areas.

Industrial activities that require a Marine Mammal Observer (www.marinemammalobserver.com), Protected Species Observer or Marine Mammal and Seabird Observer include: seismic surveys, use of explosives, pile driving, military exercises, seabed mapping and dredging. Marine Mammal Observers are often used in conjunction with Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) operators (www.passiveacousticmonitoring.com) who use specialised equipment to detect marine mammals acoustically (see www.osc.co.uk for more information).


The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (www.jncc.defra.gov.uk) have written specific guidelines for minimising the risk of disturbance and injury to marine mammals from various industrial activities, mainly oil and gas exploration such as seismic and drilling activities, on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS). Other regulatory agencies have also adopted similar mitigation measures for specific areas. These include: California, Australia, Canada, Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand and Sakhalin. Such guidelines focus on having a mitigation or exclusion zone, usually between 500-1000 m, where, if marine mammals or turtles are sighted in this area, there must be a delay or shut-down of the sound source. These guidelines also require that a gradual build-up of power is used, known as a soft start or ramp-up, to allow marine mammals and turtles time to leave the immediate area before full power is reached. Some of the variation in guidelines includes differences in species included, observer requirements, observations techniques, size of exclusion zone, duration of pre-watch and air-gun shut down procedures. Different certifications may also be required for the Marine Mammal Observer. For example The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) (www.boemre.gov) certified Protected Species Observes are required in the Gulf of Mexico during seismic surveys. Marine Mammal & Seabird Observers are required by the National Environmental Research Institute (www.dmu.au.dk) in Greenland waters.

Ocean Science Consulting Ltd.

Marine Mammal Observers from Ocean Science Consulting Ltd. are highly educated and fully-trained professionals. All of our Marine Mammal Observers have at least an undergraduate degree in marine biology (or equivalent) and have undergone extensive pre-employment trainee programmes. We use full-time employees who are committed to providing clients and contractors with informative advice while working positively with the project crew. This is reflected in our excellent ISO 9001 reporting standards.

Ocean Science Consulting’s Marine Mammal Observers are all certified JNCC observers who are not only familiar of the use of different mitigation guidelines used throughout the world but are obligated contractually to be aware of any changes to mitigation guidelines. All our Marine Mammal Observers have the necessary offshore training and medical certificates, are fully-insured and benefit from 24-hour land-based logistical and expert technical support throughout the entire survey duration.

Many of our Marine Mammal Observers are also trained Passive Acoustic Monitoring operators (www.passiveacousticmonitoring.co.uk), providing the high degree of flexibility that is extremely advantageous in the working offshore environment. Ocean Science Consulting also has Passive Acoustic Monitoring systems for hire, such as towed arrays (www.passiveacousticmonitoring.com), T-PODs (www.t-pod.co.uk) and C-PODs (www.c-podclickdetector.com), offering our clients’ the full package (see www.osc.co.uk for more information).

Ocean Science Consulting Ltd. has been operating since 2004 and acquires most of its contracts from repeat clients. Some of our past and ongoing Marine Mammal Observer using clients include the military, BASF, RWE Dea, Maersk, Shell, Noble Denton, SFF, PGS, Gardline, RSK, CGGVeritas, etc. A full list of clients, including client references/testimonials, is available upon request.