The Minerals Management Service of the US Department of Interior sponsored a three-day workshop on the Status and Applications for Acoustic Monitoring and Mitigation Systems in Boston, Massachusetts. The MMS and other federal agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service are vitally interested in the potential effects on marine mammals of such offshore activities as seismic surveying for oil and gas reserves, pile driving for offshore wind farms and other disruptive events.
The workshop focused on the capabilities, applicability, feasibility and availability of current acoustic monitoring systems. A thorough examination of hardware and software available, the capabilities and limitations of the systems, the requirements for operation and use, and the current and future applications to offshore industries will allow MMS and other regulatory agencies to determine the usefulness and appropriateness of passive and active acoustic monitoring for a variety of mitigation and monitoring situations.
Barry Lawson Associates served as a subcontractor for this project, working with Washington-based RESOLVE in organizing the running the three-day event. Nearly 200 participants attended from several countries and international companies representing different aspects of the offshore monitoring industries.
Acoustical techniques including passive (receiving signals from mammals that emit sound) and active (sending out sound waves to identify non-noise-emitting marine animals) technologies were discussed as were other critical related activities: data collection and analysis, establishing best practices for monitoring with less-than-perfect mammal identification technologies, and the challenges of having, for instance, acoustical monitoring teams on seismic survey vessels at sea.
Considerable time was spent evaluating current capabilities to identify a variety of whales and dolphins, recognizing that each species uses sound (at a variety of frequencies) during different stages of their lives in the ocean. Understanding mammal behavior is a critical element, and developing technologies to identify mammals that may be at risk from human intervention at sea is an equally challenging endeavor. Federal regulations provide guidance for delaying or even stopping undersea noise-producing activities unless a “safe” distance between those activities and nearby mammals can be assured.
Barry Lawson served as a facilitator for the event and Lynne Lawson was a note taker and the editor of the final workshop report.