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«1. Introduction 1 1.1 Application 1 2. Definitions 2 3. Part 1: Marine seismic surveys in New Zealand continental waters 6 3.1 Notification 6 3.2 ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

2013 Code of Conduct

for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine

Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations

Cover image: Seismic survey vessel Polarcus Alima entering Wellington Harbour 2012. Photo: Polarcus Ltd.

© Crown Copyright, November 2013, New Zealand Department of Conservation

Published by Publishing Team, Department of Conservation,

PO Box 10420, Wellington 6143, New Zealand.

In the interest of forest conservation, we support paperless electronic publishing.


1. Introduction 1

1.1 Application 1

2. Definitions 2

3. Part 1: Marine seismic surveys in New Zealand continental waters 6

3.1 Notification 6

3.2 Pre-survey planning and the MMIA process 7

3.3 Operational area 8

3.4 Training and experience requirements of observers 8

3.5 Recording and reporting 9

3.6 Marine Mammal Sanctuaries 9

3.7 Explosives 9

3.8 Operational requirements 10

4. Part 2: Specific requirements for each level of marine seismic survey 14

4.1 Level 1 surveys 14

4.2 Level 2 survey 16

4.3 Borehole seismic surveys 19 Appendix 1: Marine Mammal Impact Assessment 20 Appendix 2: Observer reporting 22 Appendix 3: MMO and PAM operator standards 23 Appendix 4: Operational flowcharts 25 Appendix 5: Adoption 28 Schedule 1: Areas of Ecological Importance 29 Schedule 2: Species of Concern 30

1. Introduction The 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations (the Code) has been developed by the Department of Conservation in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders in marine seismic survey operations in New Zealand.

The Code replaces the 2012 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations and comes into effect on 29 November 2013, and will remain in effect until superseded. It is open for adoption by any organisation engaged in seismic survey activities in New Zealand continental waters.

The Code must be read in conjunction with the 2012 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations: Reference Document (the Reference Document), which provides background information and guidance to assist with interpretation.

The Department of Conservation administers the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (MMPA), which makes provision for the protection, conservation, and management of marine mammals within New Zealand and within New Zealand fisheries waters. Under section 3A of that Act, the Department is mandated to administer and manage marine mammals and this Code has been developed under that mandate.

1.1 Application The MMPA’s application offshore extends to New Zealand fisheries waters (which includes the territorial sea and exclusive economic zone), the Code applies to New Zealand continental waters (which includes the waters beyond the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone but over the continental shelf).

Regulations created under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 allow seismic surveying as a permitted activity, as long as the proponent complies with the conditions of the Code.

In the territorial sea and in waters outside the exclusive economic zone but over the continental shelf, compliance with the Code remains voluntary and is neither legally binding nor enforceable under the MMPA. Persons who intend to adopt the Code while conducting seismic surveys should follow the steps outlined in Appendix 5 to confirm such intention to the Director-General of Conservation.

1 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals

2. Definitions Acoustic source means a source of acoustic pressure waves used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of an acoustic seismic survey; and in relation to a source vessel, means an acoustic source on or controlled from the vessel.

Activate means powering up the acoustic source, and includes reactivate.

Adaptive management means a systematic, iterative decision-making process enabling continuous improvement through flexible decision making that can be adjusted in the face of uncertainties and natural variability as outcomes from management actions and other events become better understood.

Areas of Ecological Importance (AEI) means any of the areas defined in Schedule 1.

Borehole seismic surveying means check-shot and all types of vertical seismic profile surveying.

Calf/calves means a smaller animal (less than two-thirds the body size of an adult) travelling in close association with an adult.

Cetacean means an animal that is a whale or dolphin within the meaning of the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992.

Check-shot surveying is a form of seismic surveying used for correlation of well data with conventional surface seismic data. A receiver (hydrophone or clamped geophone) is progressively positioned at a succession of depths in a borehole and records a series of sound waves emanating from an acoustic source at a fixed point at the surface. Checkshot surveying differs from vertical seismic profile surveying in that a check-shot survey involves a small number of hydrophone depth positions of the order of 100 metres apart, whereas a vertical seismic profile survey often involves a larger number of depth positions of the order of 20 metres apart.

Day or daylight hours means between sunrise and sunset at any given location, and includes the twilight hours of dawn and dusk where there is sufficient light to make effective observations, in the opinion of the qualified marine mammal observer.

Director-General means the Director-General of Conservation.

Explosive means a material (usually chemical), either as a pure single substance or mixture of substances, which is capable of producing a sudden release of gas, heat and pressure by its own energy in the form of an explosion.

Generator-Injector (GI) airgun means a seismic source consisting of two chambers: the generator (G) chamber which creates a sound wave and bubble as in a standard air gun, and an injector (I) chamber that is triggered immediately after the generator into the first bubble to control bubble oscillation.

Good sighting conditions means in daylight hours, during visibility of more than 1.5 km, and in a sea state of less than or equal to Beaufort 3.

Level 1 survey means any marine seismic survey using an acoustic source with a total combined operational capacity exceeding 7 litres/427 cubic inches.

Level 2 survey means any marine seismic survey using an acoustic source with a total combined operational capacity of between 2.50–6.99 litres/151–426 cubic inches capacity.

2 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals Level 3 survey means any marine seismic survey using low-energy, high-resolution electro-mechanical sources. These may include small seismic sources of less than 2.49 litres/150 cubic inches capacity, sparkers, pingers and boomers. Level 3 surveys are exempt from the provisions of the Code.

Line turn means the interval between active survey lines where the vessel manoeuvres into position for the next survey line and acquisition of seismic data ceases.

Marine mammal means any cetacean or pinniped species.

Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA) is a process through which the range of impacts on marine mammals associated with seismic survey activities are determined and steps identified to avoid, remedy or mitigate negative effects and coordinate research activities, as outlined in Appendix 1. Alternatively referred to as environmental impact assessment (EIA) in other legislation.

Marine Mammal Sanctuary (MMS) means any Marine Mammal Sanctuary as defined in section 22 of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.

Marine seismic survey is a method of exploration geophysics that uses active acoustic sources to estimate the structure, stratigraphy and properties beneath the sea floor. The method generates a controlled sound wave from an acoustic source, and detects returned sound energy through an array of acoustic receivers that may either be towed behind a vessel or combined with seismographs placed upon the sea floor.

Mitigation zone a circle with a horizontal radius set at varying distances from the centre of the acoustic source array, not the survey vessel, specified relative to the sensitivity of the marine mammal group concerned.

New Zealand continental waters means the territorial sea; the waters of the exclusive economic zone; and, the waters beyond the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone but over the continental shelf, of New Zealand.

Night or night-time hours means between sunset and sunrise at any given location Offset vertical seismic profiling (Offset VSP) is similar to a standard VSP, but uses a stationary acoustic source positioned at a fixed distance from the borehole.

Operational area means the entire geographical area potentially used for acoustic source activation throughout the proposed marine survey, including seismic data acquisition lines, acoustic source testing and soft start initiation.

Operational capacity (of the acoustic source) means the cumulative internal volume of all operational acoustic devices within an acoustic source array, including the active generator volume of GI airguns, measured in litres or cubic inches and notified in the Marine Mammal Impact Assessment. Operational capacity does not include redundant acoustic devices that are mounted within the acoustic source array for back-up purposes or the injector volume of GI airguns. Notified operational capacity should not be exceeded during the survey, except where unavoidable for source testing and calibration purposes only. All occasions where activated source volume exceeds notified operational capacity must be fully documented in observer reports.

Operator means the party conducting the marine seismic survey operations.

3 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals Other Marine Mammals (as applicable to the 200 m mitigation zones for Level 1 and 2 surveys) means a marine mammal not designated as a Species of Concern in Schedule 2.

In New Zealand waters this would most frequently mean New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri), common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus).

Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) means the use of calibrated hydrophone arrays with full system redundancy to estimate bearing and distance of vocalising cetaceans to at least 1.5 km for Level 1 surveys or at least 1 km for Level 2 surveys. The arrays incorporate appropriate hydrophone elements (1 Hz–180 kHz range) and [sound] data acquisition card technology for sampling relevant frequencies (to 360 kHz) used by New Zealand cetacean species, and are coupled with appropriate observations by software-aided monitoring and listening by a qualified PAM operator skilled in bioacoustic analysis, and computer system specifications capable of running appropriate PAM software effectively.

Pinniped means an animal that is a seal or sea lion within the meaning of the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992.

Poor sighting conditions means either at night, or during daylight visibility of 1.5 km or less, or in a sea state of greater than or equal to Beaufort 4.

Proponent means the party responsible for planning the marine seismic survey, usually the prospecting/exploration/mining permit holder.

Qualified marine mammal observer (MMO) means an observer trained and qualified in accordance with DOC standards and experienced in visual whale and dolphin identification and behaviour, and distance/direction of travel estimations.

Qualified observer means either a qualified marine mammal observer or a qualified PAM operator, having successfully completed the relevant training course recognised by the Department of Conservation and logged a minimum of twelve weeks’ sea-time observing in that capacity in New Zealand continental waters.

Qualified PAM operator means an observer trained and qualified in accordance with DOC standards and experienced in whale and dolphin detection using Passive Acoustic Monitoring equipment and techniques.

Shutdown means stopping an active marine seismic survey by immediately turning off power to the acoustic source.

Soft start, in relation to an acoustic source, means the gradual increase of the source’s power to the operational power requirement over a period of at least 20 minutes and no more than 40 minutes, starting with the lowest capacity/power acoustic source.

Sound exposure level means a measure of the received energy in the sound source pulse and represents the sound pressure level that would be measured if the pulse energy were spread evenly across a 1-s period.

Sound transmission loss modelling means the process carried out during the environmental impact assessment stage, in advance of a marine seismic survey in an Area of Ecological Importance or Marine Mammal Sanctuary, where acoustic propagation is modelled to predict the received sound levels at various distances, based on the specific configuration of the acoustic source and environmental conditions in the operational survey area.

4 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals Source (of acoustic pressure waves) includes any device used to create a pulse of acoustic energy in the ocean and includes airgun, boomer, electromechanical, or chemical device.

Source vessel means a vessel from which an acoustic source is being or is to be deployed for the purposes of a marine seismic survey.

Source vessel observer means a qualified marine mammal observer on board the source vessel.

Species of Concern (SOC) means any individual of the species listed in Schedule 2.

Trained observer means either a marine mammal observer or PAM operator who has successfully completed an appropriate training course recognised by the Department of Conservation or demonstrated competence in observational standards to the satisfaction of the Director-General.

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