Training courses for marine mammal observers

Training courses for marine mammal observers

13 July 2015

Courses to train marine mammal observers to work at shelf engineering and exploration sites will soon kick off in Russia. The project is run by the Marine Mammal Council and the Centre for Marine Research at Lomonosov Moscow State University, with assistance from the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Oil companies and environmental mediation companies that operate on the shelf of the Russian Arctic and the Far East still use adapted foreign methods for protecting marine mammals and birds.


"This is wrong, as the Russian seas, especially the Arctic, are special in their own way. They are different from, say, the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea, with their unique conditions and species wealth," says Dmitry Glazov, one of the organisers of the courses, who also serves as the chief engineer at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, deputy head of the White Whale programme of the institute's permanent expedition, and board member at the Marine Mammal Council.


Scientists believe that a university diploma alone is not enough to become a qualified and responsible observer. Observers must have professional qualification and experience as they will have to work in specific conditions and guarantee the safety of many marine mammal species included in Russia's Red Data Book and on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


The three-day courses include theoretical and practical classes. Specialists who successfully pass the final exam will receive a certificate allowing them to become an observer.  


"This is especially important now as engineering and geological exploration work in the Arctic has picked up. It is necessary to take timely steps to protect marine mammals. We are thinking not only about white whales but about all sea animals. This is comprehensive and serious work, and it will continue," Mr Glazov said.


Currently, specialists, including participants of expeditions on geological survey ships, are finalising the lecture programme and display materials in order to launch the updated course in August and train as many qualified and responsible marine mammal observers as possible by the 2016 season.