There is a perceived need from several U.S. federal agencies and departments, including the U.S. Navy, to develop consistent standards in how passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) for marine mammals is implemented for mitigation and monitoring purposes. At least one U.S. federal regulatory agency (National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS) has required towed PAM operations for real-time mitigation and monitoring, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). In the most recent ESA consultation with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Activities in the Atlantic Ocean, NMFS has required the use of PAM as a required mitigation. In addition, BOEM has recently entered into a stay period under a settlement agreement for litigation regarding G&G activities in the Gulf of Mexico, and PAM is required for all seismic permits in the Gulf in water depths greater than 100 meters. Correctly archived PAM data would also allow the scientific and regulatory communities to compare data across different temporal and geographic scales.
The development of a standard for at least one type of PAM by a professional society would create greater simplicity in assigning PAM contracts, greater consistency in PAM operations across multiple organizations and contractors, and better transparency in the collection and dissemination of PAM data.
These webpages concern the development of a draft American National Standard for “towed PAM,” or passive acoustic monitoring using hydrophones towed behind surface vessels, which transmit their data via either cable or telemetry to a central recording station. While towed PAM is only one aspect of marine mammal PAM efforts, the technology is perceived as sufficiently mature and proven and thus an excellent candidate for starting a standards process. A successful implementation of a towed PAM standard would provide a template for other PAM technologies to become standardize as their technologies mature, potentially shaving years off future standardization efforts. For the remainder of these sections the term “PAM” should be understood to mean “towed array PAM”.