NEW ZEALAND MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES

Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (MMS) are designed to protect marine mammals from harmful man-made (anthropogenic) impacts. In New Zealand, a MMS is defined in section 22 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 (www.legislation.govt.nz). There are six MMS in New Zealand:

  • Auckland Islands;
  • Banks Peninsula;
  • Catlins Coast;
  • Clifford and Cloudy Bay;
  • Te Waewae Bay; and,
  • West Coast North Island.
Lyttelton Harbour, part of the Bank Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary (MMS). © OSC 2014.

Lyttelton Harbour, part of the Bank Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary (MMS). © OSC 2014.

NEW ZEALAND SEISMIC CODE OF CONDUCT IN MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES

The ‘2013 Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations’ (the Code) stipulates that extra conditions are required when planning, or conducting marine seismic surveys in New Zealand MMS (DOC, 2013). For a general summary of the Code, please refer to www.codeofconductseismicnewzealand.co.nz

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 Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA); and,
  • Agree to comply with any additional conditions.

During the MMIA (www.marinemammalimpactassessment.co.nz) process, sound transmission loss modelling must be undertaken and incorporated into the MMIA. 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.

EXTRA MITIGATION REQUIRED IN MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES UNDER THE CODE

While working in New Zealand waters, Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators need to be aware of the possibility of working in a MMS, as they may be responsible for implementing 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 MMIA and/or Marine Mammal Mitigation Plan (MMMP) for the survey.

EXTRA MITIGATION REQUIRED IN MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES UNDER NZ GAZETTE NOTICES

Mitigation requirements for MMS are also outlined in NZ Gazette notices. Most regulations are similar to those in the Code; where they differ, 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 notices which can be downloaded from the links below.

FURTHER INFORMATION ON NEW ZEALAND MARINE MAMMAL SANCTUARIES

For further information (e.g. NZ Gazette/Marine Mammal Protection Notices and maps) on the six MMS in New Zealand please see the links below.

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.