Rigorous assessments of the potential impact of industry and coastal development on marine mammals: research designs, techniques and long-term strategies
Amanda Hodgson, Lars Bejder and Ken Pollock (Murdoch University)

Increasingly, the approval and permitting processes for coastal developments and industrial activities in marine and coastal areas require an assessment of the potential impacts on marine mammals.  Often there is little pre-existing data with which to make these assessments.  Environmental consultants and marine mammal biologists are then asked to collect data, usually over short time frames, to determine likely long term impacts.

This symposium will focus on the techniques available to collect appropriate data to assess these impacts, how we can improve our assessment methods and how we can strategically work to collect long -term strategic data sets with a short term funding base.  This will provide an urgently needed critique of the science available for assessing impacts of industry and coastal developments on marine mammals.  We will ask presenters to provide an overview of what questions each technique can and cannot answer, including limitations of temporal and spatial scales of assessments.

We will have three sessions:

1. Techniques to determine presence/absence, abundance and habitat use

  • Survey design – what are the minimal requirements to get useful data?
  • Aerial surveys or boat based surveys – what is appropriate?
  • Photo ID surveys – Mark-recapture – limitations and new developments
  • Surveys using acoustic methods

2. Interpreting short-term behavioural responses to disturbance within a longitudinal perspective

  • Appropriate use of, and inferences from, behavioural studies
  • Assessing impacts on marine mammal vocal behaviour

3. Planning long-term and strategic research to optimise and pre-empt impact assessments

  • The value of baseline and long-term datasets
  • Answering recurring questions with good experimental design
  • Using density models to conduct risk assessments

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