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Monitoring and mitigation of the sound effects of hydrocarbon exploration activities on marine mammal populations

PhD ceremony:K.C.A. Broker, MSc
When:September 24, 2021
Start:16:15
Supervisor:prof. dr. P.J. (Per) Palsboll
Co-supervisor:dr. C.J. Camphuijsen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Science and Engineering

Monitoring and mitigation of the sound effects of hydrocarbon exploration activities on marine mammal populations

Offshore Exploration and Production (E&P) activities, such as seismic surveys and drilling, generate sound that can affect marine mammals in different ways. These effects range from permanent or temporary auditory impacts to disturbance or behavioral changes, and communication masking. Depending on the intensity and duration of these effects, and without implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, this can result in population-level consequences.

The overarching objective of the study of Koen Broker was to advance the protection of marine mammals during the implementation of E&P activities through the following themes: (1) enhancement of the state of knowledge of risk management, (2) efficacy of mitigation, (3) advanced monitoring technology, (4) implementation of advanced industry monitoring and mitigation measures and (5) measurement of heretofore unassessed E&P activities.

In his study several marine mammal monitoring and mitigation programs associated with E&P projects are presented to further advance these themes. Topics being addressed include the use of autonomous camera systems for aerial monitoring of a narwhal population, long-term photo-identification studies of western gray whales to better understand site fidelity to their summer feeding grounds, mitigation of gray whales’ behavioral responses to a seismic survey near these feeding grounds and use of Passive Acoustic Monitoring to characterize seismic pulses and drilling activity as well as marine mammal presence in remote arctic areas.

A synthesis of the main findings is provided that includes identification of future research needs. Conclusions and specific recommendations are made that will contribute to our ability to assess and mitigate risks of E&P sound to marine mammals.