Marine Mammal Impact Assessments (MMIA) and Marine Mammal Mitigation Plans (MMMPs) are undertaken by marine industries to demonstrate effectively that operations have been planned and executed using best available techniques to minimise disturbance to marine mammals and other protected species. In some countries, such as New Zealand, MMIAs are a requirement.
NEW ZEALAND SEISMIC MMIA
Appendix 1 of New Zealand’s ‘2013 code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations’ list specifically, what is required in an MMIA,; requirements are as follows:
- Describe activities related to proposed marine seismic survey (e.g. operational area and source capacity);
- Describe state of local environment in relation to marine species and habitat, with particular focus on marine mammals;
- Identify actual and potential effects of activities on the environment and existing interests, including any conflicts with existing interests;
- Identify significance of any potential negative impacts (in terms of risk and consequence), and define criteria used in making each determination;
- Identify persons, organisations, or tangata whenua (indigenous peoples of New Zealand) with specific interests or expertise relevant to potential impacts on the environment;
- Describe any consultation undertaken with persons described above, and specify those who have provided written submissions on the proposed activities;
- Include copies of any written submissions from the consultation process;
- Specify any possible alternative methods for undertaking the activities to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effects;
- Specify the measures that the operator intends to take to avoid, remedy, or mitigate potential adverse effects identified;
- Specify a monitoring and reporting plan; and,
- Specify means of coordinating research opportunities, plans, and activities relating to reducing and evaluating environment effects.
The MMIA must be submitted to the Director-General of Conservation, as an MMIA or as a component of a Health Safety and Environment (HSE) plan or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Whatever method is used, it must contain the above requirements as a minimum.
The final MMIA must be made available to any Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) or Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators employed during the survey.
MMIAS IN AREAS OF ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE
If projects in New Zealand are to occur in Areas of Ecological Importance (AEI; www.areasofecologicalimportance.co.nz) or Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (MMS; www.marinemammalsanctuaries.co.nz), more comprehensive MMIAs, that include sound transmission loss modelling, are submitted to the Director-General.
Results from sound transmission loss modelling must also be ground-truthed during the course of the seismic survey.
An MMIA must be submitted to the Director-General no less than one month before commencing the seismic survey. The Director-General will aim to give an initial response within 10 working days, and any subsequent responses within five working days.