Marine Mammal Observer Programmes

There is growing concern that man-made noise disturbance during offshore seismic exploration may have an affect on marine life, in particular marine mammals and turtles. It is therefore compulsory that a seismic survey vessel be accompanied by at least one marine mammal observer. The role of the marine mammal observer is to monitor the surrounding area, using either visual and/or passive acoustic monitoring methods, and to act immediately to protect species of concern should they enter an exclusion zone during seismic operations. The observers will advise personnel onboard to delay or shutdown operations until the animals are at a safe distance and also to record behaviour and sightings at other times.

Visual monitoring is conducted using a pair of binoculars whereas passive acoustic monitoring is conducted by deploying hydrophone cables and monitoring in-coming signals on computers with specially designed acoustic software (e.g. PAMGUARD). Marine mammals spend most of their time underwater and for those species that are very vocal and are deep divers, acoustic monitoring can be conducted in addition to visual monitoring to increase the likelihood of detection during the day and night operations. PAM and MMO approaches are complementary and are often used simultaneously to provide better coverage.


Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs)

Our professional, experienced and dedicated Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) are accredited by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and/or the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).  These training requirements are some of the most stringent and include all forms of mitigation measures that are required globally of the seismic industry.

MMOs are deployed either as solo observers or in teams according to the monitoring coverage requirements specific to the project. We select our MMO teams on a project basis according to cumulative experience, relevant experience in the survey region as well as leadership abilities. Our expertise in ship-based MMO deployments amounts to over 6000 sea-days with a full-time staff of over 30 MMOs and land-based support staff.  We deploy globally from our hub in Cape Town, South Africa and specialise in the sub-Saharan African region.

Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators

We offer acoustic monitoring services via both supply of Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) and ship-based system operators. All personnel hold PAM training certificates through Seiche Measurements Ltd. and are experienced in the operation and deployment of this equipment. We offer vessel installations of systems as well as land-based backups during offshore deployments. Our association with Seiche has allowed frequent re-training of our PAM operators to latest industry developments and we are able to keep pace with this fast evolving technology and expanding knowledge base of underwater noise and marine mammal vocalizations. Training covers aspects of underwater noise, a background to and a working knowledge of PAMS hardware and software and the practical use thereof. Our operators have experience with remote monitoring and with the use of additional observation tools such as infrared camera technology and night-vision binoculars which aid in the detection of animals during darkness or poor visibility.

Fisheries Liaison Officers (FLOs)

In order to avoid negative interactions with commercial fisheries sectors, we provide a fisheries liaison service to the offshore hydrocarbon upstream industry. FLOs are stationed on either the survey or guard vessel and are on 24 hour standby to communicate directly with skippers in the vicinity of the survey operation and to advise the party manager or ship’s officers on the most suitable avoidance action to be taken during an interaction with the fishing industry. Our contingent of 15 FLOs have considerable experience on-board fisheries vessels ranging across all different fisheries sectors. A thorough and practical knowledge of gear types is essential as is an understanding of the technical operations of each type of fishery. FLOs have a minimum of 2000 days of at-sea experience on board commercial fisheries vessels operating within international and domestic waters. Our FLOs’ expertise is focussed on the Southern African region and they are fluent in English and Afrikaans. Other languages available are Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Zulu and Xhosa. All FLOs have GMDSS restricted radiotelephone operators certificates in addition to the required safety certifications relevant to the offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production industry.