Standardizing Protected Species Observer Requirements in the United States
Seismic surveys remain at consistent levels in US waters, and new marine areas are now available for leasing of oil, gas, and renewable ocean energy projects. There is an increasing need to design a protected species observer (PSO) program for marine mammals protected under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act and species listed as endangered or threatened under the US Endangered Species Act to address expanding offshore energy monitoring and data collection needs in US waters. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS; the lead agency for protected species conservation) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE; the lead agency with oversight of offshore energy [oil, gas, minerals extraction, and renewable energy] in US federal waters) conducted a national review (K. Baker, D. Epperson, T. Turk, H. Goldstein, K. Skrupky, J. Lewandowski, B. Smith, and G. Gitschlag, NOAA Technical Memorandum, in preparation) of the seismic survey PSO program. This review resulted in recommended actions to implement standards that would benefit protected species management. Core components of the program include standards for PSO qualifications, PSO training, data collection, and reporting.