Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel

Seismic Surveys and Noise Task Force

Seismic Survey Task Force

To assist in developing its advice regarding Sakhalin Energy’s Monitoring and Mitigation Programme (MMP) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Company’s proposed 2008 seismic survey, the Panel established a Seismic Survey Task Force (SSTF). The Panel’s primary concern was the potential impact of sound energy from the airgun pulses on gray whales in their near-shore (Piltun) feeding area. . Click here for the SSTF's terms of reference. (Note: The seismic survey did not take place until 2010.)

The  SSTF held seven meetings between 2007 and 2011 to:

  • Review and analyse noise predictions and estimated whale densities in the feeding area for the proposed period of the seismic survey;
  • Develop recommendations for mitigating the impacts of the seismic survey on the whales;
  • Develop recommendations for monitoring underwater sound and gray whale distribution and behaviour during the survey to both minimize any impact on the whales in “real time” and to contribute to scientific knowledge regarding the effects of seismic surveys on whales and how to prevent or mitigate such effects in future surveys.

Noise Task Force 

In 2011, the name of the Seismic Survey Task Force was changed to Noise Task Force (NTF) to acknowledge that its remit should include all aspects of the noise issue and not exclusively those related to seismic surveys.

The NTF has held 11 meetings, most recently on 7-8 November 2016 in Moscow, Russia. NTF meetings developed advice on the MMPs for Sakhalin Energy’s relatively small seismic survey in 2012 and much larger survey in 2015 (which took place in combination with seismic surveys by other companies in the same region), and the task force’s current focus is on the Company’s upcoming large seismic survey tentatively planned for 2018.

Apart from seismic surveys, the NTF regularly comments on the acoustic monitoring component of the annual Sakhalin Energy/ENL Joint Programme for Western Gray Whale Research and Monitoring and on various specific noise-related issues such as the need for a new control site to monitor underwater sound in the north-eastern Sakhalin region, improved methods for detecting noise anomalies during ‘routine’ production operations, and the potential role of new technology for acoustic monitoring of industrial activity and whale behaviour.

The next meeting (NTF-12) is planned for 31 March - 2 April 2017 in Gland, Switzerland, followed by NTF-13 planned for November 2017 in Moscow, Russia. 

Lessons learnt 

The experience and lessons learned from these task forces have been reflected in a number of scientific papers as well as in industry good practice publications on environmental risk management and the design of monitoring and mitigation programmes for marine seismic surveys (for example, see here). 

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