Canada has the largest coastline in the world, measuring 243,042 km. Our economic exclusion zone is 5,599,077 km2. There is no doubt that Canada relies on its oceans as a way of life; from industries such as shipping, renewables, and oil and gas to recreational boating and fishing.
We are a country that is dependent on our oceans. With the increase of human activity comes an increase in our footprint, from plastic to spills to noise that can have an impact on marine life.
It is estimated the world’s oceans are increasing in underwater sound levels at a rate of 3dB every decade. This may seem relatively low, however, this translates to our oceans becoming twice as loud every ten years. Mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts on marine mammals are more important now than ever.
When it comes to anthropogenic noise in Canada’s oceans, industries are required to implement mitigation measures in accordance with Canadian law. Those mitigation measures can vary slightly from project to project, coast to coast. Currently, the fundamentals of those regulations can be found in “The Statement of Canadian Practice with Respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment”. Implemented in 2008 these guidelines function as a minimum standard practice for [seismic] operations occurring in non-ice covered marine waters in Canadian jurisdiction¹.
“The Statement” addresses the increasing concern regarding potential effects of the airgun sound produced during seismic exploration as these are typically high amplitude, low-frequency acoustic waves that overlap extensively with a number of marine mammal species’ functional frequencies². Within Canada, “The Statement” requires that during [seismic] operations a “qualified” Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) must be present and visually observe for the presence of marine mammals before and during all seismic operations.
These rules and regulations have extended into industries such as renewables and marine coastal construction, though there are currently no formal guidelines for these types of operations.
Edgewise Environmental is a marine environmental consultancy that was founded on the need for formalized training for Marine Mammal Observers who are working within Canadian jurisdiction. This no longer just extends to the oil and gas industry operations, but across all marine sectors in which we, as Canadians, create noise that could potentially be harmful to our marine fauna. We are of the belief that Canadian marine environmental training and qualifications (such as MMO) should be standardized, as they are in the UK and Gulf of Mexico.
The development of a standardized MMO training and qualification program in Canada would enhance the effectiveness of observers and therefore the probability of detecting listed cetacean species. Additionally, such a program would ensure that high-quality data is collected and reported to support further research on the industry impacts on cetaceans and the efficacy of the mitigation measures used ¹˒³.
We are also unique in Canada, in that many of these types of positions also require further skill sets, such as formalized Seabird Observation (SO) and/or Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operation. These types of environmental monitoring are specific, with the East Coast of Canada following a rigorous methodology to record and capture seabird data during marine operations.
Although PAM is recognized as a potentially valuable detection technique within most of the regional guidelines around the world, its full potential use in marine industry mitigation is not yet realized ². There is currently no standardized training program for PAM Operators under any global regulatory body, though courses are available. These courses are not recognized by a governing agency.
Despite this lack of standardized training, multiple government departments, regulatory bodies, and personnel publishing within academia acknowledge the need for such, as well as the use of PAM as a mitigation tool. We at Edgewise recognized this need within Canada and the necessity for training to be made more readily available and with hands-on experience.
Given this gap in the market of offshore environmental mitigation training within Canada, specifically, Edgewise has developed a robust and rigorous marine mitigation program. We continue to further develop our wide range of courses and to remain current with legislation, policy and remain at the forefront of this type of training, which is exactly where Canada should be – pioneering excellence in the protection and conservation of our oceans.