Areas of Ecological Importance and Marine Mammal Sanctuaries
IntroductionIn addition to the six gazetted Marine Mammal Sanctuaries DOC has identified a number of Areas of Ecological Importance for marine mammals based on information in the sightings and strandings databases.
Under normal circumstances marine seismic surveys would not be planned in any sensitive, ecologically important areas or during key biological periods where species of concern are likely to be breeding, calving, resting, feeding or migrating, or where risks are particularly evident such as in confined waters (for example, embayments or channels).
To assist with effective consideration of such sensitivities during pre-survey planning, DOC has developed a map that highlights particular sensitivities for marine mammal species. This map will be updated on a regular basis as new data becomes available. A functional, higher resolution map is under development and will be available on the site soon.
Stakeholders with specialist knowledge about marine mammal distribution can engage with DOC if refinements to the maps are considered necessary based on new information, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.
Where conducting surveys in Areas of Ecological Importance and Marine Mammal Sanctuaries is demonstrated to be necessary and unavoidable through the Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA) process, further measures (for example additional observers or observation platforms, aerial observation, acoustic source power restrictions, or designing the survey so as to avoid trapping marine mammals in confined areas such as narrow, constricted sea ways) may be required to minimise potential impacts.
In addition, sound transmission loss modelling needs to be incorporated into the MMIA methodology and ground-truthed during the course of the survey by appropriate means. Such modelling should estimate predicted sound levels within the various mitigation zones and potential impacts on species present. If the results indicate any cause for concern, consideration will be given to either extending the radius of the mitigation zones or limiting acoustic source power accordingly.
In these instances advice needs to be sought from the Director-General to develop and agree on appropriate mitigation strategies.
Marine Mammal Sanctuaries
Of the six Marine Mammal Sanctuaries (MMS), five include provisions in the regulations that cover seismic survey activities within their boundaries. It is acknowledged that there are inconsistencies between some of these regulated requirements and the provisions of the Code. In most instances the Code is more stringent, but there are some areas where the MMS regulations are stricter. In each case, the more stringent provisions will apply, and it is the responsibility of the seismic survey proponent to check the relevant regulations if seismic surveys are planned in MMS.
DOC will work towards aligning the MMS regulations with the provisions of the Code as part of the regulatory process when mandatory measures are being developed and implemented throughout New Zealand continental waters.