Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (MMS) are designed to protect marine mammals from harmful man-made (anthropogenic) impacts. A MMS is defined in section 22 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 (www.legislation.govt.nz). A list of the six New Zealand MMS is found on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website (www.doc.govt.nz). For example, the Banks Peninsula MMS was created to protect Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) from by-catch in set nets (www.doc.govt.nz).
The ‘2013 Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations’ (the Code) has stipulated that extra conditions are required when seeking to, or conducting marine seismic surveys in New Zealand MMS (DOC 2013). For a summary of the Code, please refer to www.codeofconductseismicnewzealand.com
PRE-SURVEY REQUIREMENTS FOR MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES
Anyone considering a marine seismic survey within a MMS must comply with the following at the earliest opportunity, and no less than three months before commencing the survey:
- Notify the Director-General of their intention of carrying out a marine seismic survey;
- Submit a written Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); and,
- Agree to comply with any additional conditions.
During the EIA process, sound transmission loss modelling must be undertaken. This is carried out to predict received sound levels at various distances from the sound source, and therefore determine appropriate mitigation zone sizes and/or maximum acoustic source levels. For more information on measuring underwater sound, please see www.underwatersoundmeasurement.com.
EXTRA MITIGATION REQUIRED IN MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES UNDER THE CODE
While working in New Zealand waters, Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs; www.marinemammalobserver.co.uk) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators (www.pamoperators.com) need to be aware of the possibility of working in a MMS, as there may be additional mitigation conditions imposed by the Director-General. Additional mitigation may include, but is not limited to, increasing mitigation zone size, number of qualified observers, or watch period. There is the possibility that only part of the seismic survey will be in a MMS, and these extra conditions may only apply to those periods rather than the entirety of the survey. This information should be available in the Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA) for the survey.
EXTRA MITIGATION REQUIRED IN MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES UNDER NZ GAZETTE
Mitigation requirements for MMS are also outlined in NZ Gazette notices. Most regulations are similar to those in the Code, where they differ the more stringent requirement is enforced. For example, in the Catlins Coast MMS the pre-start procedure (e.g. an MMO conducting visual observations from a high vantage point with range estimation binoculars and the naked eye) is 60 minutes (instead of the usual 30 minutes) in water depths of 200 m or deeper. For all extra restrictions on seismic surveying in MMS, please see the NZ Gazette links below.
Banks Peninsula: www.doc.govt.nz
Catlins Coast: www.doc.govt.nz
Clifford and Cloudy Bay: www.doc.govt.nz
Te Waewae Bay: www.doc.govt.nz
|DOC (2013) 2013 Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations.|
|p. 36. Publishing Team, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.|