AREAS OF ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE

In New Zealand, Areas of Ecological Importance (AEI), including Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (MMS; www.marinemammalsanctuaries.co.nz), have more extensive planning requirements and considerations.

New Zealand AEI boundaries are based on the Department Of Conservation’s (DOC; www.doc.govt.nz) database records of marine mammal sightings and strandings, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (www.mpi.govt.nz) fisheries-related data in the National Aquatic Biodiversity Information System (www.nabis.govt.nz), and technical input from marine mammal experts.

For the most up-to-date information on New Zealand AEI, please see www.doc.govt.nz/aei

MARINE MAMMAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT FOR AREAS OF ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE

Anyone planning a marine seismic survey in New Zealand continental waters using an acoustic source with a total combined operational capacity of 151 to >427 cubic inches, must submit a Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA; www.marinemammalimpactassessment.co.nz) to the Director-General of Conservation (DOC, 2013). A MMIA is particularly important for AEI because it ensures that, under normal circumstances, marine seismic surveys will not be planned during key biological periods or in ecologically important areas. This may mean times of or areas used for breeding, calving, resting, feeding, or migrating.

If a marine seismic survey is to be conducted in an AEI, the MMIA may have to outline additional mitigation measures defined in a Marine Mammal Mitigation Plan (MMMP). Additional measures may include, but are not limited to:

  • Additional observation platforms;
  • Increased pre-observation periods;
  • Aerial observations;
  • Acoustic source power restrictions; and/or,
  • Avoid trapping marine mammals in confined areas (e.g. narrow, constricted seaways), sometimes termed ‘embayment’.

The MMIA for an AEI must also include sound transmission loss modelling.

A support vessel used as an additional platform for Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) during a marine seismic survey in a New Zealand Marine Mammal Sanctuary (MMS). © OSC 2014.

A support vessel used as an additional platform for Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) during a marine seismic survey in a New Zealand Marine Mammal Sanctuary (MMS). © OSC 2014.

REFERENCES

DOC (2013): 2013 Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations.
Publishing Team, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand, pp. 36.