NPWS implement new mitigation guidelines

23rd Jul 2007 New mitigation measures to protect marine mammals during acoustic seafloor surveys in Irish waters came into force last week.

These measures "Code of Practice for the protection of marine mammals during acoustic seafloor surveys within Irish waters" were developed through extensive consultation with interested parties including the IWDG, CMRC, Petroleum Affairs Division and the industry. They apply to all seismic surveys and some multibeam, electromagnetic and sidescan surveys

Implementing these guidelines were a recommendation from the first Irish Offshore Strategic Environmental Assessment (IOSEA) of the Slyne, Erris and Donegal basins which was completed in June 2006.

The IWDG were strongly involved with these guidelines having drafted a review of the effects of multibeam on cetaceans (O'Brien, J., Berrow, S. and Wall, D. (2005). The impact of multibeam on cetaceans: A review of best practise). This formed the basis of the new mitigation measures.

Implicit in the new mitigation measures is the use of a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) to monitor a 1000m buffer zone between the sound source and marine mammals on start up and ensure compliance with the code of practice.

Carolyn Barton delivering an MMO course in Kilrush©Simon Berrow

The IWDG organised two MMO courses in Kilrush over 20-21 July in order to establish a panel of people who can act as MMOs. Over 20 people attended the courses and the IWDG have a panel of 30 people with varying degrees of seatime and marine mammal experience to implement the guidelines.

The IWDG congratulate the NPWS and especially Dr David Lyons for bringing these mitigation measures to implementation. The IWDG look forward to working with NPWS, PAD and the industry to ensure acoustic surveys have a minimal impact on the marine environment.

Code of Practice for the Protection of Marine Mammals during Acoustic Seafloor Surveys in Irish Waters (PDF file, 240KB)

Dr Simon Berrow

IWDG Co-ordinator