JNCC-recognised MMO training course

This course is aimed at personnel who will be acting as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) in UK waters. The MMO training course introduces the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) guidelines for geophysical surveys, piling and explosives operations. The course content aims to equip MMOs with all the necessary knowledge to fulfill this role effectively, including the implementation of the JNCC guidelines, the reporting requirements and the identification of marine mammals. Running for more than twenty five years, the course is continually updated to reflect current knowledge and practice. It has been reviewed and accepted by the JNCC.

Bookings for the next course 

Who is the course for?

MMO course content

Course schedule

Bookings for the next course

May 27th & 28th, 2024

9:00am-5:00pm Monday 27th May
9:00am-1:00pm Tuesday 28th May
Online exam at delegate's convenience
(All times UK time - BST)



The course is delivered remotely by Zoom over 1.5 days. The final exam is done online after the course at delegates’ convenience. Spaces are limited to maximise opportunity for questions/ discussion and involvement in exercises. Each delegate gets individual written feedback on exercises and the exam.

You will need a laptop/ PC (a phone screen is not suitable for viewing the presentation or completing exercises) with Word and/or Excel and a good, reliable internet connection. 

To book a place (subject to availability) please return the registration form to info@carolynbarton.co.uk . 

Who is the course for?

The JNCC-recognised MMO course is a requirement for personnel who will be acting as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) or Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) operators in UK waters (PAM operators will also need to have some form of PAM training), although anyone with an interest in the JNCC guidelines can do the course. There are no prerequisites for attending the MMO course, but delegates with some prior marine mammal experience or other environmental/ scientific/ seagoing experience are most likely to be successful in obtaining work as an MMO. Delegates with enthusiasm but without a relevant background who wish to work as MMOs should seek to gain some experience after the course; there are many marine mammal projects that welcome volunteers. Those in managerial positions in the offshore industries may benefit from attending the course to learn about the mitigation requirements that may apply to their projects.

The course is presented in English, so delegates should have sufficient understanding of the English language to follow the presentation and complete the practice examples.

Please note that to work as an MMO offshore you will need appropriate offshore survival and medical fitness certificates. See Links for further information on centres that provide these.

MMO course content

The MMO training course follows the syllabus set out below:

Marine mammals and noise - what is a marine mammal, the importance of hearing, vocalisations, functional hearing groups, impulsive vs. continuous noise, potential effects of noise (disturbance, masking, injury, death).

Activities that require mitigation - geophysical surveys (seismic surveys: site, 2D, 3D, 4D, OBC/OBN, VSP; high resolution surveys), piling (offshore wind farm construction, coastal construction), explosives (well abandonment, construction, UXO clearance).

Background to the JNCC guidelines - origin and development of the guidelines, legal protection for cetaceans, seals and other marine megafauna, licensing of activities in UK waters, EPS and wildlife licences.

Detailed examination of requirements of the JNCC guidelines (geophysical, piling and explosives) - planning considerations, use of MMOs/ PAM, the mitigation zone, pre-activity searches, delays in operations, soft starts, geophysical survey line change procedures, breaks in operations, airgun testing, undershooting on geophysical surveys, high resolution survey mitigation, post-detonation search (explosives), use of acoustic deterrent devices, compliance, the role of the MMO/ PAM operator.  Delegates will consider example situations and how to deal with these.

JNCC data collection and reporting requirements - the MMO Report, JNCC Marine Mammal Recording Forms, demonstration of the use of the recording forms.  Delegates will complete a practice example of the recording forms.

Visual monitoring - choosing an observation position, timing of the search, scanning techniques, visual cues indicating the presence of marine mammals, the influence of weather, visual range estimation, use of binoculars, assessing weather conditions.

Introduction to Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) - overview of PAM, types of PAM systems (towed arrays, static buoys), acoustic range estimation, PAM software (Pamguard), using PAM for mitigation, reporting PAM data.

Working as an MMO/ PAM operator - certificates needed, working through agencies, lone working/ team working, role of the MMO/ PAM operator, tasks before/ during/ after a project, equipment needed, communication with the crew, professional conduct, health and safety.

Identification of marine mammals - identification guides, features used in identification of pinnipeds, features used in identification of cetaceans, identification features of marine mammal species in UK waters.  Delegates will get practice at identifying marine mammals.

Exam - multiple choice format, completed online for remotely-delivered courses.  Pass mark 80% (as set by JNCC).

Resources - delegates receive a comprehensive digital resource pack covering the content of the course. Post-training support is available.

Course schedule

Remote delivery:
Courses delivered remotely by Zoom are scheduled approximately once a month. Live sessions comprising a mix of lectures and exercises are presented over 1.5 days - any exercises not completed during the course will need to be completed as homework. The final exam is done online after the course at delegates’ convenience. Delegates on remote courses will need a laptop/ PC (a phone screen is not suitable for viewing the presentation or completing exercises) with Word and/or Excel, and a good, reliable internet connection. Please contact us if you want to be included on a mailing list to be informed of dates of future courses.

Private group courses:
Groups (minimum 3 people) can arrange a private course with remote delivery on dates to suit them. Alternatively, classroom courses for groups can be held at a venue of your choice. Please contact us for group rates and to arrange a suitable date.


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