JNCC-recognised MMO training course

This course is aimed at personnel who will be acting as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) in UK waters. The MMO training course introduces the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) guidelines for geophysical surveys, piling and explosives operations. The course content aims to equip MMOs with all the necessary knowledge to fulfill this role effectively, including the implementation of the JNCC guidelines, the reporting requirements and the identification of marine mammals. Running for more than twenty years, the course is continually updated to reflect current knowledge and practice.  It has been reviewed and accepted by the JNCC. 

Who can do the course?

MMO training course content

What do delegates receive?

MMO training course details

Bookings for the next course

Who can do the course?

This course is for those who intend working as an MMO in UK waters.  There are no prerequisites for attending the course, but delegates with some prior marine mammal experience or other environmental/ scientific/ seagoing experience are likely to be most successful in obtaining work as an MMO. Delegates with enthusiasm but without a relevant background who wish to work as MMOs should seek to gain some experience after the course; there are many marine mammal projects that welcome volunteers.  Those in managerial positions in the offshore industries may benefit from attending the course to learn about the mitigation requirements that may apply to their projects. 

The course is presented in English, so delegates should have sufficient understanding of the English language to follow the presentation and complete the practice examples.

Please note that to work as an MMO offshore you will need appropriate offshore survival and medical fitness certificates. See Links for further information on centres that provide these.

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MMO training course content

The MMO training course follows the syllabus set out below:

Introduction to marine mammals -

  • taxonomy
  • biological functions including senses and vocalisations
  • functional hearing groups
  • issues affecting marine mammals, including acoustic disturbance

Sound -

  • sources of man-made noise in the oceans
  • measurement of sound
  • sound propagation
  • potential effects of acoustic disturbance on marine mammals
  • acoustic thresholds for injury of marine mammals

Legislation -

  • legislative background to the JNCC guidelines
  • European Habitats and Species Directive
  • Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations
  • Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations
  • mitigation principles

Introduction to seismic surveys -

  • principles - basic theory and aims of seismic surveying
  • practice - operational procedures and equipment
  • types of survey - site, 2D, 3D, 4D, 4C, OBC, VSP

Detailed examination of requirements of the JNCC guidelines for geophysical surveys -

  • planning before the survey - consent, survey considerations, areas of importance for marine mammals, visual and passive acoustic monitoring
  • use of MMOs/ PAM - equipment, training, experience, requirement for dedicated/ non-dedicated MMOs
  • pre-shooting searches - location of observer, timing of search, search duration, importance of communication, interpretation of navigation screens as an aid to timing
  • delays in shooting - when to delay, frequency of delays, how to deal with delays
  • soft starts - purpose of soft start, duration of soft start, soft start procedures
  • line changes - duration of line change, when to stop firing and when to continue, repositioning geophones on VSP
  • airgun testing - requirement for soft starts
  • undershooting - why and how this is achieved, location of MMO
  • breaks - planned and unplanned, requirement for monitoring, requirement for soft start
  • high resolution surveys - small airgun arrays, electromagnetic sources, sub-bottom profilers, side scan sonar, multibeam, requirements for mitigation
  • reporting after the survey - what to include in a report, compliance
  • summary and comparison of key features of the guidelines for geophysical surveys, pile driving operations and the use of explosives (this can be expanded where appropriate, for example for clients specialising in piling or explosives)

The role of the MMO -

  • monitoring marine mammal presence
  • provision of advice on compliance with the guidelines
  • monitoring compliance with the guidelines
  • reporting
  • pre-survey and mobilisation meetings
  • other personnel - interaction with the MMO
  • situations that may be encountered and how to deal with these

Reporting requirements -

  • JNCC Marine mammal recording forms - Excel forms and Deckforms
  • demonstration of use of recording forms
  • practice examples of recording forms
  • submission of reports

Visual monitoring -

  • choosing an observation position
  • scanning
  • visual cues
  • influence of weather
  • communication with crew
  • visual range estimation - rangefinder stick, reticle binoculars, comparison with known reference points
  • use of binoculars - choosing binoculars, diopter adjustment

Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) -

  • advantages and disadvantages
  • types of PAM systems - towed arrays and static buoys
  • acoustic range estimation
  • software - Pamguard
  • using PAM for mitigation
  • reporting PAM data

Identification of marine mammals -

  • identification guides
  • features used in identification of pinnipeds
  • features used in identification of cetaceans
  • demonstration of identification features of species that may be encountered
  • practice at identifying marine mammals

Practicalities of working as an MMO -

  • certificates needed
  • equipment needed
  • working through an agency

Post-training support for MMOs, which could include -

  • answering any questions that may arise
  • review of report(s) (optional)

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What do delegates receive?

  • A course manual and comprehensive resource pack
  • A course certificate
  • Post-training support available

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MMO training course details

The MMO training course is a one-day course. Courses are held in Inverness, usually starting at 9:30 am and finishing by 6:00 pm.  Tea/ coffee and a light lunch are provided.  Please Contact us for dates of future courses.

Inverness is served by good air and rail connections.  Inverness airport connects with a number of other airports within the UK, including London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast, as well as Dublin in Ireland and Amsterdam for international connections.

Alternatively, courses for groups can be held at a venue of your choice. Please Contact us for group rates and to arrange a suitable date.

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Bookings for the next course

Due to Covid 19 all classroom-based courses have been postponed until further notice.  Please contact us for details of alternative arrangements.

Date: tbc

Location: tbc

Cost: tbc



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JNCC-recognised MMO course

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Site last updated 04/08/21

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