CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA) has been awarded a contract from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for the analysis of all visual and acoustic mitigation survey data collected during seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) from 2009 through 2015. These data will be combined with the first 6 years (2002-2008) of data analysis, also completed by CSA staff in 2012, and the resulting dataset will be the largest and most comprehensive analysis of U.S. seismic mitigation data and the largest dataset globally collected under standardized regulations. This study plays an integral part in science-based policy-making and risk assessment for future geophysical mitigation requirements and impact assessment. The availability of such data in a peer-reviewed format is necessary to support these environmental impact documents as they must meet best available science criteria.
Due to the increase in required use of passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) throughout the GOM, data analysis conducted during this study will represent the first opportunity to make significant comparisons of acoustic detections to visual detections as well as to evaluate the potential efficacy of acoustic monitoring during a seismic survey. The data analysis will serve the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and MMPA rulemaking where it will be used to assess potential impacts of geophysical surveys on marine species, evaluate the efficacy of mitigation measures, and assess impacts of specific mitigation measures on industry operations. As part of this study, CSA will also conduct a comparative analysis of mitigation activities before and after the BOEM settlement agreement (U.S. District Court 2013) as well as assess results in several important GOM ecosystems, such as offshore Sargassum spp. and canyon habitats.
Ultimately, a BOEM technical report, at least one peer-reviewed publication, at least one conference presentation, and an extensive geospatial database will be produced. The project will be led by Mary Jo Barkaszi, CSA’s Marine Mammals Program Manager, and supported by CSA’s Environmental Data and Geospatial Services (EDGS) team for geospatial analyses and data visualization.