JNCC guidelines for minimising the risk of disturbance and injury to marine mammals from geophysical surveys

Open Access Guidance notes 2017

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

It is recognised that sound generated from geophysical survey sources has the potential to cause injury (e.g. hearing damage) to marine mammals (cetaceans and seals). Some surveys, seismic surveys in particular, have the potential to result in a deliberate injury offence as defined under UK regulations for the protection of European Protected Species (EPS). ‘Deliberate’ has been interpreted in European Commission guidance as “actions by a person who knows, in light of the relevant legislation that applies to the species involved, and the general information delivered to the public, that his action will most likely lead to an offence against a species, but intends this offence or, if not, consciously accepts the foreseeable results of his action”. Therefore, anyone carrying out an activity which they should reasonably have known could cause injury as defined in the regulations could be committing an offence. The mitigation measures outlined in these guidelines are designed to reduce the risk of deliberate injury to marine mammals and relevant measures are incorporated as part of the consenting regimes for geophysical activities within the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS). These guidelines were originally written with the oil and gas industry in mind, however since their conception the use of geophysical technologies by other marine industries has grown. Any geophysical survey that has the potential to result in injury to marine mammals should apply the mitigation measures outlined in these guidelines (or an alternative as agreed with the relevant Regulator). Whilst the mitigation measures in these guidelines have some limitations and their effectiveness may not be able to be fully tested, they are based on reasonably conservative assumptions. It is considered that compliance with these guidelines constitutes best practice and will, in most cases, reduce the risk of deliberate injury to marine mammals to negligible levels. The focus of these guidelines is marine mammals, however they could be adapted to help reduce the risk of deliberate injury to other marine species if deemed appropriate by the relevant Regulator. For example, other potentially sensitive species include marine turtles, also listed as EPS, and several shark species including basking shark which are UK priority marine species. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) has no objections to these guidelines being used in other territories. However, we would encourage all operators to determine if any special or local circumstances apply, as these guidelines are not intended to be used where local mitigation guidance has been adopted.

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